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  • Writer's pictureJAM

Spreading the JAM throughout Pittsburgh

JAM Enterprises and Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh (CMP) have established a partnership to foster and promote cultures of kindness in Pittsburgh area schools. Made possible by the generous support of The Grable Foundation and Pennsylvania Department of Education.

The Pittsburgh Commitment to Kindness (PCK) pilot initiative uses a cohort-model to support schools in developing a kindness project over the 2018-2019 academic year.

Cohort members participate in professional learning experiences, receive support from initiative partners, host a community kindness event at their school, and attend a culminating Community Kindness Day hosted by CMP.

The PCK initiative began through an ongoing partnership between CMP and Maureen Frew, Digital Media Specialist at Avonworth Primary Center. “I had previously worked at CMP for two years and knew how important kindness was to the museum,” said Frew. “I had talked to CMP about combining our two programs, and we all felt it was a perfect complement.”

CMP is rooted in the legacy of Fred Rogers. “We’ve always sought to promote kindness in our Pittsburgh neighborhood and beyond.” said Talia Stol, Senior Research Scientist, Learning and Research at CMP. “As a former Teacher-in-Residence, Mrs. Frew and CMP share a history of collaboration and a strong foundation of mutual respect. PCK represents the next step in this relationship, expanding opportunities for Pittsburgh’s students and teachers to be agents of change in their communities.”

“Working with the museum is a game changer,” Frew said. “Their goal is to teach children about exploring, creativity, making, and kindness; how to grow up kind and stay kind. This is what JAM is all about.”

PCK is perfect for Pittsburgh’s culture. “Pittsburgh is always on the forefront of new things, so why not kindness as well?” Frew said. “Pittsburgh is filled with kind people, let's show the rest of the world!”

Why Kindness?

Kindness impacts everything. “We’re learning it’s important to have societies with compassionate and kind people,” said Stol. “Which starts in early childhood. The key is to support [this type of education] to bring out the innate kindness in young people.”

“A kind environment increases confidence, which is crucial to learning. If there are positive expectations and assumed goodness, then it’s going to become habitual”

In a digital world, kindness is more important than ever before. “Sometimes the world doesn’t feel super kind, especially with social media,” Stol said. “It is important [for children] to be empowered, engaged, and amplify their voices.”

There are four schools participating in the pilot program: Avalon Elementary, Northgate School District; Bellevue Elementary, Northgate School District; Greenock Elementary, Elizabeth Forward School District; Lockley Early Learning Center, New Castle Area School District. “We are documenting the process; encouraging schools, teachers, and students to look at lessons learned, awesome things that happen, and challenges.” Stol said. “We will reflect over the summer and determine how to scale from there.”

The goal is to spread kindness as far as it can reach. “My hope is that this kindness program takes off in every school in the state of Pennsylvania and beyond,” said Frew. “I’m hoping that PA can be the model state for kindness.”

As part of the pilot initiative, “CMP created a toolkit to support school-based teams in developing their kindness projects. It includes resources and conversation starters to get kids excited,” said Stol. “ It emphasizes the student led aspect, with teachers as facilitators/guides.” The toolkit currently includes tools to support educators in their work with students such as identifying core kindness values, determining a kindness project, sparking community participation, as well as documenting and sharing the project. Over the summer of 2019, partners will revise and improve the toolkit based on their pilot efforts.

If you’re interested in learning more about PCK, please email Alison Bank at

Want to see PCK and CMP in action? Join us on May 19, 2019, 12 pm-4 pm for Community Kindness Day at CMP, part of Remake Learning Days. The PCK pilot schools will showcase their projects, and throughout the museum there will be activities and local organizations that promote kindness. Visitors who wear a #bethekindkid t-shirt get discounted admission of $8.

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