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Teaching Compassion in Schools

Pillars of Peace Hawai‘i is an ongoing initiative designed to usher peace and aloha into our daily lives.

So what does this look like inside island classrooms? It means increasing social and emotional learning by teaching compassionate and mindful behavior to Hawai‘i’s keiki.

Since 2012, Pillars of Peace has been working with public, charter and private schools across the state to implement several social and emotional learning, or SEL, programs. Here are two examples.

Roots of Empathy

Roots of Empathy (ROE) brings babies and their parents into a K-8 classroom over a series of 27 visits. Having the baby as a living, breathing teaching tool, a Roots of Empathy instructor guides students to better understand human emotions and needs.

The students develop emotional intelligence, reduce their levels of aggression, and learn to challenge injustice. Last year, ROE trained three new mentors, who train and support instructors, and 15 new instructors, who are community volunteers who make a two-year commitment to the program.

Choose Love

The Pre-K to Grade 12 program Choose Love was developed by a mother who lost her young son in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

The Choose Love curriculum uses evidence-based neuroscience and positive psychology lessons to teach children four key character values—courage, gratitude, forgiveness and compassion. The program began with one school and is now used in 52 schools and 89 afterschool programs in Hawai‘i, including Kama‘āina Kids’ 10,000 youth from all islands. One of the highlights of 2019 was the second annual Choose Love Conference, a standing room-only gathering on O‘ahu attended by teachers, counselors, superintendents and key legislators. National program founder Scarlett Lewis visited Hawai‘i as the keynote speaker, and teachers currently using the lessons in Hawai‘i shared how the materials and tools are transforming their school cultures.

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