February 25, 2010 in Washington Voices

Empathy levels get a boost at school

Program teaches kindness, bully prevention
By The Spokesman-Review
Lisa Leinberger photo

Alan Grishko, right, Kaiden Custer, center, and Katie Fernandez play games during class at Windsor Elementary School, which teaches students empathy.
(Full-size photo)

Map of this story's location

If one of Lin Frederick’s second-grade students sees another student with his or her head down, not talking to anyone on the Windsor Elementary School playground, the student has a way to make that person feel good about themselves.

“You want to go to them and ask if they want to play,” said student Jared Geschke.

The students call this “the boost.”

“It’s a proactive way to stop bullying before it ever starts,” Frederick said.

The teacher said there wasn’t a specific incident that started this movement with her Cheney School District students, but she thought it would be a good way to teach them empathy.

“The kids recognize the value of walking in someone else’s shoes and take the steps necessary to lift a person’s spirit and give the boost to those in need,” she said.

The students are quick to say that the boost is not just for school.

“(You can give the boost) in class, at your house, in the store – anywhere,” said Shaemis Ellwood.

One of the benefits of the program students have noticed is that if you are nice to someone they will be nice back to them.

“You get the boost back and you get to be their friend and stuff,” said Kaiden Custer.

Frederick said the movement is spreading through the school and she is hearing the language her students use being used by staff and other students at the school.

The class is also learning about boosting the planet by picking up garbage or people in history that have been boosters.

In January, the students learned about Martin Luther King Jr. and what he did for civil rights during the 1960s.

“He was a really good booster,” said Vinnie Terrile.

The students also relate the Boost to stories they read in class, like the “Wind in the Willows.” The students all agree that the mole is the booster in that story and the toad is definitely not.

The students have put up a Booster Board in the school hallway to promote what they are doing. Students write stories about giving someone a boost and their pictures are up on the board, too. Frederick said they change the board every month.

Bethany Fisher said she once helped another student on the playground and found the benefit of it.

“It makes me feel good to boost,” she said.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email