Start Young

Based on a program to help reduce high school dropout rates, first graders get ready for high school as GSP interns introduce character-building activities, among them "Happy Places".

April 04, 2013

In anticipation of this unique summer program for the Bukharian community in Queens that focuses on character building alongside academic achievement, Marina invited first graders and their parents to an open house to explain how character-building activities could also be fun.

In one of the activities entitled ‘A Happy Place’ kids explore empathic behaviors. Here's how it works: An area in the classroom is designated as a ‘Happy Place’, where everyone will eventually play together nicely. There is a bag that contains happy and sad faces. Children put their hands in the bag to collect either a happy or sad face. If children collect a happy face they get to go and play in the ‘Happy Place’, if they get a sad face they have to be invited by other children to the ‘Happy Place’. And this is where the instructor of the lesson moderates a discussion on what it feels like to be in someone else’s shoes (when you did not collect a happy face and were included in play). Children understand that even if they might be getting sad faces it is okay to express feelings and that with the help of others all sad faces can be exchanged to happy ones.