Children’s Conceptualizations of Kindness at School

  • John-Tyler Binfet University of British Columbia Okanagan
  • Amy Gaertner Teacher Central Okanagan
Keywords: curriculum, hermeneutics, play (spiel), teacher education, transcultural


This study investigated perceptions of kindness in 112 young children (57 girls, 55 boys, ages 5–8) in three schools. To assess perceptions of kindness, students were asked to draw what kindness looked like to them and to draw an example of something kind done recently at school. Findings indicated students perceived kindness within the context of dyadic relationships, the recipients of kindness were familiar to them, and kind acts were typically situated outdoors; helping physically, maintaining friendships, including others, and helping emotionally were prevalent themes within drawings. Boys drew acts of kindness as helping physically more frequently than did girls, whose drawings indicated kindness as maintaining family relationships. Findings are discussed within the context of positive education and the promotion of prosocial behaviour.


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Author Biographies

John-Tyler Binfet, University of British Columbia Okanagan
John-Tyler Binfet is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Education and director of the B.A.R.K. (Building Retention through K9s) program at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. His research focuses on the social and emotional well-being of students, with an emphasis on conceptualizations of kindness within school contexts. Email:
Amy Gaertner, Teacher Central Okanagan
Amy Gaertner is a primary teacher in School District No. 23 (Central Okanagan). Her graduate work at UBC Okanagan (M.Ed., 2014) focused on understanding how young students understand kindness at school. Her work has been presented at the Early Years Conference (2014) and the annual meeting of the Association for Moral Education (2015).
How to Cite
Binfet, J.-T., & Gaertner, A. (2015). Children’s Conceptualizations of Kindness at School. Journal of Childhood Studies, 40(3), 27-39.