In these ADD-riddled days of inattention and idleness, getting a group of 3-year-olds to focus their energy on a shared objective is about as easy as lion taming.
But somehow, one Missoula, Mont., teacher has not only inspired the kids in her pre-K classroom to focus, she’s given them a tangible way to spread human kindness on a daily basis.
She's also given them capes.
“The capes are very important,” Kristal Burns, the creator of Superheroes of Kindness and teacher at the Missoula Community School, told the Huffington Post. “Without the capes, I don’t think this would have worked.”
Kristal's mission began when she was introduced to Secret Agent L, the pseudonym of a Pittsburgh-based, 33-year-old administrative assistant named Laura Miller whose “anonymous acts of kindness” have spread nationwide. She immediately thought Miller’s message could have a profound effect on her class.
“My passion in education is using mindfulness to create a base of empathy and understanding,” Kristal said. “And, after meeting Laura Miller and seeing all the things she was doing, it seemed so perfect."
She tried to think of the best way to sell this idea to her kids, who range from 3 to 5 years old. “Well, they loved superheroes,” Kristal said. So, she thought, what if we created a group of superheroes whose powers were based around spreading kindness? Could it be that easy?
The kids loved the idea and so did their parents, who helped construct capes for their children to wear out on missions. The newly-crowned Superheroes of Kindness soon took to the streets, dispensing over 300 pounds of food to a local food bank. “It was a food drive run by three and four year olds,” Kristal laughed.
She and her students delivered goods to a senior center, landscaped local gardens, and passed off handmade, recycled flowers to random people on the street.
Immediately, Kristal said, the kids began to feel the impact they were having. "I remember one girl gave her flower to a stranger and then just started crying. I asked her what was wrong and she said, 'My heart just feels so good right now.'"
When Kristal asked the kids to pose for a photo after one Superheroes event, she asked them to say the classic, "Cheese.” But the kids weren’t having any of that. “Can we just say, 'Go Kindness,' please?” the kids asked.
“I was like…OK! Whatever you want," Kristal said, finding herself rather speechless.
Best of all, the Superheroes of Kindness philosophy has manifested itself in other ways. Kids hold the doors for each other, help classmates up when they fall and act nicer in the hallways.
“They’re getting out of their ego-centric selves a little bit, pointing out what other kids do good instead of just what they do good," Kristal said. "They’re taking care of each other, and they’re doing it without reminders from us."
Teachers from nearby Montana communities are also taking notice, e-mailing Kristal for advice on starting their own Superhero club. And more capes, for more students at Missoula Community School, are being made.
This summer, Kristal and the superheroes won’t put a stop to their outreach. They plan to work with Imagine Missoula, a non-profit dedicated to providing small acts of kindness and support within the local community.
"And then, next year," Kristal said, "we’re hoping to make Superheroes a school-wide thing."
Saving the world, one step at a time.
Follow the Superheroes of Kindness and their Missions of Good by clicking here.