Capturing Kindness



Originally created for intermediate grades (5-7), these sequenced lessons culminate in students photographing their own interpretations of what kindness looks like. The following resource contains both the story behind the project's success and the instructions that allow educators to replicate and/or adapt the activities for their classes. "We" refers to a group of teachers in the Comox Valley School District[1] (along with their students) who collectively designed and implemented the project. 


Learning Outcomes:

Students will be able to:

  • visualize and describe what kindness looks like
  • infer kindness from photographs
  • capture and describe photographic representations of kindness


  • powerpoint of photographs of students previously interacting
  • internet access
  • a selection of printed images
  • permissions and notices to families about the use of photos
  • collective photo storage (email account or "cloud")

Teaching and Learning Activities:

Lesson One: What Does Kindness Look Like?

We began by establishing a ‘need to know’ - by sharing a slideshow of photographs (accompanied by instrumental music) from our recent community building activity ‘board gaming’ afternoon, where students from four intermediate classes played games and interacted for 1 hour. The purpose for viewing the slideshow– was to reflect on our shared experience and to gather evidence; asking students, “What evidence do you see of engagement/focus, collaboration/sharing, and fun (smiles, laughter)?"

  • Our driving questions: “What does Kindness look like? If you were to take a photograph to somehow capture or represent kindness, what would be in your picture?”

We brainstormed and discussed as a group what might be or could be in a photograph capturing or representing kindness.

After much dialogue, one student said “Kindness is NOT throwing rocks at salmon in the creek…” From this, we worked as a group to frame this description of kindness differently, arriving at “Kindness is observing the creek while not disturbing it”. 

We then asked guiding questions to further prompt and push student thinking; “What if my photograph was of a freshly baked blueberry muffin? How might this represent or capture kindness?” Student responses included, “Well, it might be a muffin that someone gave to you for a treat.”… or “It might be something that you made to share with someone else.”

Lesson Two: Inferring From Pictures

We googled the word kindness and then clicked on the images link. We then selected and shared photographs that are posted and asked, “Why or how does this photograph represent kindness?” Students brainstormed and shared their thinking using the frame:

Evidence + My Thinking = inference 

(what I see) + (my connections/background knowledge) = (my conclusion)

Lesson Three: Visual Talking

Curriculum Support Teacher Doug David had the opportunity to participate in a workshop at the Be the Change Conference[2] in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India where he was introduced to Dialoogle Visual Talking cards to stimulate communication and dialogue. These cards are availble for purchase. Alternatively, a D-I-Y version of the cards can be created by either downloading and printing royalty-free images, purchasing colourful postcards, or clip out images from outdated calendars.

For this project, we used the image cards to further support our students in thinking about and identifying kindness in images with the guiding question, “How would you describe this photograph as representing or capturing kindness?”

Each student was given a different card. Students responded positively to this opportunity to first think independently, next share with a partner, and then share with the whole group, how their photograph card could be conceived to be a capture or representation of kindness. For example, one student described that the elephant in their photograph represented kindness because the lead elephant was showing the way and protecting the other elephants; "because he is the biggest and the strongest."

Lesson Four: The Photographic Invitation

At the time of this project, the classes participating in this project were invited to send select photographs and descriptions to the Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education for use in a montage of child-captured photographs to an audience of 500 educators at the opening of Heart-Mind 2014 Conference: The Science of Kindness. 

Students were invited to use their own devices to take photographs, outside of school, that in some way captured or represented what kindness looks like/means to them. They were asked to submit their photographs and descriptions of their ‘kindness captured or represented’ to a email account that we set up.

In addition to submitting a collection of photos to the Dalai Lama Center, all student photographs were shared and celebrated at our school.

The lesson plan was compiled and submitted by Doug David, District Curriculum Support Teacher for School District 71 (Comox Valley).

This conference is hosted annually by Design for Change to bring together young change makers from around the world to one stage and share their remarkable stories of change. The celebrations are an opportunity for global partners to connect and collaborate with each other to spread the contagious “ I CAN” bug to all children in different countries.


Dialoogle is a "creative tool to kick-start, renew, diversify and qualify communication in dialogues and group conversations. Dialoogling makes use of a series of picture cards with motives created to stimulate associations, inspire creativity, and facilitate versatile linguistic formulation of feelings, perceptions and ideas. Apart from being great fun, dialoogling makes conversations flow more freely, enhancing the value and outcome for all participants."

  • Secure and Calm

    Secure and calm describes the ability to take part in daily activities and approach new situations without being overwhelmed with worries, sadness or anxiety. To be secure and calm also means being able to cope with stress and pressure, and to bounce back from difficulties.
  • Gets Along with Others

    Getting along with others is the ability to form positive and healthy relationships with peers and adults. Children with better abilities to regulate their emotions and behaviours have more friends and experience more positive playtime with their peers.
  • Alert and Engaged

    Being alert and engaged is the ability to manage and direct one's own feelings, thoughts and emotions. In general, the ability to be 'present' and to exercise self-control.
  • Compassionate and Kind

    Being compassionate and kind is closely related to empathy. While empathy refers more generally to the ability to take the perspective of and to feel the emotions of another person, compassion goes one step further.
  • Solves Problems Peacefully

    Managing conflict effectively is about creating an atmosphere where violence and aggression are not likely. To resolve conflict means using empathy, problem-solving skills, understanding other points of view and coming up with ways to make things right in a fair way.