In this challenge, students experience the power of setting in motion a series of positive actions by being kind to someone who in turn is motivated to pass along a kind gesture to another person. The concept of a chain reaction can be introduced though the story Because Brian Hugged His Mother by David L. Rice. This story tells of a young boy who impulsively hugs his mom one morning and sparks a series of unselfish acts that extends to dozens of people. If this book is not readily available, create your own "chain of events" story (e.g., you are feeling cheerful one morning so you say how nice someone else is looking, which motivates that individual to help an elderly person cross the street, and so on). Read the story to the class, identifying the kind acts. Discuss what makes a kind act and how students know an act is a kind one. Reread the story, stopping at each act of kindness and invite students to role-play the acts described in the story. List the "kindnesses" to create a "chain of kindness" as the story moves along.
Develop criteria for an act of kindness (e.g., makes someone happy, the doer feels good about doing it, it is simple to do). Ask students to brainstorm a list of acts of kindness towards class members. Invite each student to select an act of kindness to carry out towards a specified member of the class (everyone in the class should be identified as a recipient of an act of kindness). You may want to adapt the charts and strategies for Considering Options (Support Material) and Justifying My Choice (Support Material) to structure the selection of an act to carry out. As students receive their act of kindness, they are to pass it along to their assigned recipient. Arrange for each student to carry out his/her part in the "chaining" and then bring them together in a circle. Go around and across the circle as students tell what acts of kindness they received and to whom they passed it along. Reinforce the "chain reactions" nature of the interaction by creating "passing along kindness" tickets that students exchange in the circle as they tell about their actions of kindness and how receiving a kindness caused them to pass it along. To extend this activity, after several weeks, invite students to discuss how they have benefited from giving and receiving their kind act.
Adapted from I Can Make a Difference, edited by Mary Abbott, Roland Case and Jan Nicol (Richmond, BC: The Critical Thinking Consortium, 2002), 101118.