It’s a problem that affects schools everywhere – how to ensure that we don’t just crack down on bullies, but encourage a mind-set that prevents bullying behaviour in the first place?

To mark Anti-bullying Day on May 4th, Swedish retailer Ikea came up with a unique way of teaching children a message about the effects of negative behaviour towards others.

The live experiment involved IKEA taking two of its very own plants and installing them at GEMS Wellington Academy school in the UAE. Students were encouraged to record their own voices to share compliments and words of encouragement to one plant, while they gave words of criticism and verbally bullied the second plant. After 30 days, the results spoke for themselves - while the complimented plant continued to thrive, the bullied plant visibly struggled and looked dull.

Read more 5 things parents of kind children have in common

This worked as a powerful visual metaphor for the children: Your words have consequences and an environment where bullying goes unchecked is one where living things struggle to thrive.

“It’s raised the profile massively of different forms of bullying and the effects that bullying can have on people,” explained GEMS Wellington Academy teacher Thomas Nelson of the experiment, which was conducted with the participation of thousands of pupils at the school.  

While education experts have long promoted children caring for and interacting with nature to engender compassion towards other living things, such as with the Forest Schooling movement, few campaigns have made such a direct link between plants and educating children on how to be kind towards others. 

Read more 7 ways to get your kids closer to nature in the UAE  

Vinod Jayan, managing director of Ikea Middle East, said that the experiment was “so successful in driving awareness and reducing bullying amongst these children that more schools in the UAE have approached Ikea to conduct the experiment at their locations.”

Intrigued? Vinod points out that the experiment can work just as easily at home with the help of a few potted greens from the store.

Watch the full video of the experiment here: 

 

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