Can kindness be taught? According to a new education initiative, “Discover Kindness in the Classroom,” the answer is a resounding yes — and not a moment too soon.

Last week, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation (RAK) and Discovery Education launched the compassion-building program, designed to strengthen social emotional skills in and out of the classroom. The program is aimed at children in grades K-8 and available nationwide at no cost to educators.

“The program first introduces students to kindness concepts–such as respect, compassion, empathy, gratitude, integrity, fairness, and helpfulness–and then encourages them to implement these specific concepts into their everyday life,” said Vice President at Discovery Education Kristin Hirst in an interview with Lady Freethinker.

One lesson geared towards 2nd graders is titled, “Joking, Teasing, or Bullying.” Children are taught the definitions of each and then asked to consider different real-life scenarios. The children discuss each scenario and then decide if it is a joking, teasing, or bullying situation, therefore preparing them to better decipher subtle social cues on what is appropriate social behavior and what is harmful, and what is an appropriate response to each.

Children are not only learning how to manage their own emotions, but are also encouraged to reach out to others for no other reason than to spread kindness.

In the video below, which accompanies the free materials, a group of kids were shown to make bookmarks and then secretly hide them in random library books for other kids to stumble upon.

“I think it’s magical to watch those kids’ faces when they’ve done something for somebody and see their response,” commented Marceen Farsakian, an elementary school teacher in Fresno, California. “When they get the fact that they’re giving something and they’re not getting anything in return, but they’re still so excited. I think that’s just incredible.”

If teaching children to be kind and considerate wasn’t enough of an incentive, there’s more. Programs like this can also help curb high-risk behaviors such as violence and drug use — and according to a study by the American Psychological Associations Monitor on Psychology, they can also improve academic test scores by up to 11%.

How are classrooms responding to this campaign of kindness?

“We’ve heard such positive reactions,” Hirst said. “Given the amplified civic tones this year, teachers are especially thankful to have these resources to guide important discussions on the important of kindness. Now more than ever we have to instill kindness in our students and teach them to have compassion and respect for one another. Our future is in the hands of today’s children, so it is our responsibility to cultivate a kinder world by starting with today’s youth. When we encourage kindness, we make the world a better place.”