This year my boys were involved in some unusual learning projects in high school. My soon to graduate senior took a business course called Building Wealth that was more of a course about belief and value systems than the accumulation of physical wealth. It was a wonderful experience for him. In that course, they had to explore what made them happy as a person. For three weeks, this was purposely explored, action plans were made and implemented, and discussed. I believe it benefited him greatly to explore what made him happy. This was aptly called the Happiness Project.
More specifically, each day for three weeks each student in the class:
- wrote down three things for which they were grateful
- wrote a paragraph on the best thing that had happened to them the day before
- meditated for 10 minutes
- performed a random act of kindness
For three weeks, these were the actions of juniors and seniors in high school. You know the significance of three weeks, don’t you? It is said that if you perform a task for three weeks, it becomes a habit! These students were taught to intentionally seek happiness! I think that being happy is the richest wealth one can have!
I am not sure if this curriculum was built around the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin or not. But, it sure sounds like something that could have spun off from her experience. Or, maybe the three weeks my son experienced were the result of one very creative teacher who knew of Rubin’s work or had seen some other applications of it. One thing is for sure, we all want to be happy! If there are some proven ways to get there, why not try it?! I will be buying Rubin’s bestselling book, because like everyone else I want to be happy too! And, as a mother, the one thing I really want for each of my three boys, is for them to be happy!
My youngest son, a sophomore, is an artist. He was involved, through his art teacher, in something called The Memory Project this year. The Memory Project in a non-profit, charitable organization that connects children around the globe who have experienced poverty, abuse, neglect, trauma, natural disasters, personal loss and other hardships with young artists who draw portraits of the children to help them feel happy and valued. It is a chance for those who have so much to practice kindness and global awareness through art.
My son was assigned a young Haitian girl to draw. For privacy reasons, I will not post the drawing here. But, what an experience! He and three other art students at our high school spent a large chunk of their last semester working on the portraits for the memory project. The art work is then sent back to the child in validation of their existence and worth as a fellow human. I can honestly say, it was one of the most incredible experiences! Watching my student carefully put his time and talents into creating a piece for a child so far away, a piece that they would be happy and proud to have, was heartwarming! I think it is something he’ll always remember. Hopefully, a good memory was also created for the young Haitian girl who received her portrait this spring.
As the month of Slice of Life Story Challenge blogging winds down, I wanted to share these experiences with fellow educators, as they might inspire you to add something to your arsenal or tool box of tricks for engaging students in more than just prepping for a test, but instilling the human qualities of caring and happiness that each of us need, no matter where we are around the world.