Heart River Elementary School students are working to build character strengths and positive relationships.

Principal Randy Muffley introduced the school to the Positivity Project, which he was first introduced to when he worked in Michigan.

"It began with two veterans and some research out of the University of Michigan ... We all have 24 character traits that are inherent in all of us, and (it's) looking at noticing those character strengths in others and building upon those character strengths," he said.

Every day of the week for about 15-20 minutes, the teachers at Heart River teach one of the character traits.

"There's a national calendar. Each week is a new character trait. For example, this week is bravery ... Teachers are using content from the Positivity Project, and they're having discussions in the classroom," Muffley said.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

The project centers around thinking of others and building relationships.

"Some of the research out of Harvard shows that over the past few years, empathy has decreased by 30% and that narcissism has increased by 40%," Muffley said. "It's all hinged upon positive relationships and (the belief that) all people matter ... Our personal happiness is really contingent upon those relationships we have with other people."

He spoke about witnessing the impact of the program on students. In Michigan, a fifth grade student met with him about helping her friend continue dancing when their family couldn't afford it.

"She said, 'My friend, her father has esophagus cancer, and he can't work right now, so she can't afford dance ...You have been teaching us other people matter. I would like to do a can drive,'" Muffley said. "In Michigan, cans are a dime for returnables. She said, 'I'll organize it in the parking lot. I'd like to take that money, and I would like to donate it to their family so she can continue to dance.'"

He said yes and the student raised $1,000 for her friend.

At Heart River, two 2nd grade students were arguing on the playground.

"When they came in, the teacher was listening to them and their concerns, and she said, 'Well, our character trait we're learning about this week is forgiveness. Do you think you girls could sit down and talk through this and use that character strength of forgiveness to work your way through it?' They agreed to it, and they were able to resolve their situation they had," Muffley said.