Super Kind Kids

Super Cooper cannot sling webs. He does not pilot an invisible airplane, communicate telepathically with sea creatures or leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Super Cooper does possess a guileless enthusiasm, a proper red superhero’s cape and an open-book approach to reporters not usually found in men of steel.

He readily told AOL News about his latest act of derring-do-good.

“We saw someone next door and we said hi. And we gave him flowers. And we tell him he could come to our school.”

Students at Missoula Community School in Missoula, Mont., are 'superheroes of kindness'

Courtesy of Kristal Burns
Preschoolers at Missoula Community School in Missoula, Mont., perform weekly acts of kindness dressed as caped superheroes.

AOL News managed to extract the name of Super Cooper’s favorite fellow caped crusader, Eliza, before Super Cooper handed the phone to his preschool teacher and returned to his toys.

Cooper Spataro, 3, and his classmates at Missoula Community School in Missoula, Mont., are “superheroes of kindness,” performing weekly acts of good will that include cleaning school windows and delivering paper flowers to residents of an assisted living community.

Teacher Kristal Burns came up with the concept after discovering Laura Miller, aka Secret Agent L.

Miller, whom AOL News profiled in August, performs frequent small acts of kindness using her secret agent pseudonym, leaving small notes and treats in public places for passers-by to discover. She encourages others to embrace the random good deed and to share their under-the-radar benevolence anonymously via her website.

“I was intrigued,” Burns said. “We were talking about how wonderful it would be to teach the kids to do that. At the same time, we love superheroes and we want to be superheroes, but superheroes often hit and punch. Why don’t we be superheroes of kindness?”

The kids loved the idea, even after Burns explained that they would not be fighting bad guys; even after she told them that they could not “fly” on slick ice, only on dry pavement; and especially after a crafty parent fashioned capes for the entire class.

Burns’ students, who range from 3 to 5 years old, most recently took part in the mission Cooper described, an idea Burns concocted when a shop opened in the neighborhood.

“There was a new store that moved in called Upcycle that takes recycled materials and turns them into bags. We welcomed them into the neighborhood and asked them if they’d like to come in,” she said.

While the superheroes’ acts usually benefit those outside school walls, one of the primary goals of the kindness effort is to encourage development of empathy, sometimes in short supply among preschoolers who don’t want to give up their truck, their doll or their purple crayon.

Since the kids became superheroes, Burns has noticed a change.

“It has made a world of difference,” she said. Bickering is on the wane; helping is on the rise.

“We’re not telling them that they have to help someone who needs help, but now they just see it.”

Unexpectedly, the small superheroes have spawned adult sidekicks in their community.

“They’re getting these random letters from people. … Can we go on a mission with you?” Burns said.

“They’re not too small to make a difference. That’s been a really neat outcome of this. They’re just being their kind selves, and people are so thankful.”

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Another example

“I am a special education teacher in a primary school. I try to teach the children in my class about kindness and compassion. I reward random acts of kindness that happen in my classroom. When a student does something to help one of their peers, out of the goodness of their heart, I will acknowledge it and let them go in to my ‘kindness box’ to pull out a little surprise. The students get excited when someone is recognized for being kind and they congratulate that child for caring enough to help someone else. It is amazing how the children in my classroom are always well behaved and have a caring nature from just being kind.” — mpg85