GRATITUDE: A Powerful Classroom Tool


[semester equivalent = 4.00 credits]



Brenda McKinney



Are you looking for a course that will inspire you with powerful scientific proof that gratefulness can change your life? Groundbreaking research on gratefulness has shown that people are better able to deal with everyday stress while building their resilience and satisfaction with life, improving relationships, and creating more powerful connections. This course is a perfect choice for all teachers experiencing stress while working to balance career and family life and for struggling students experiencing loneliness, social anxiety, and lack of motivation.  

This course showcases the new science of gratitude while providing an opportunity for you or a collaborative team to put the powerful emotion of gratitude into practice through journaling, daily practice of being grateful, and contemplative sessions. An exciting feature of the course is developing your own plan to bring gratefulness to the classroom that extends far beyond the classroom walls.

If you want to find new tools backed up by research that work even in tough times, then join me in this inspiring course as you create a new blueprint for a happier, more grateful you. It is a perfect choice for teams that enjoy collaborating, sharing, and discussing plans for gratefulness in their classroom and seeking change in their own lives.

“It’s not about having more, but about being more.” 

This course is appropriate for elementary and middle school teachers. Counselors, high school teachers with advisories, or others who worked with at-risk kids will find this course valuable.

Required Text: The Gratitude Project: How the Science of Thankfulness can Rewire Our Brains for Resilience, Optimism, and the Greater Good. Editors are Jeremy Smith, Kira Newman, Jason, Marsh, and Dacher Keltner. ISBN:  978-1-68403-461-1.

LEARNING OUTCOMES: Upon completion of this course, participants will have:

  • Learned how the brain is transformed through daily practice of gratitude.
  • Gained knowledge on the role of gratitude in today’s classroom.
  • Developed an understanding of how teachers can foster gratitude in their students.
  • Learned how to create tasks/tools that support the development of gratitude.
  • Explored components of gratitude that developed your own exploration and practice in gratitude.

Completion of all specified assignments is required for issuance of hours or credit. The Heritage Institute does not award partial credit.

The use of artificial intelligence is not permitted. Assignment responses found to be generated by AI will not be accepted.

Completing the basic assignments (Section A. Information Acquisition) for this course automatically earns participants their choice of CEUs (Continuing Education Units), Washington State Clock Hours, Oregon PDUs, or Pennsylvania ACT 48 Hours. The Heritage Institute offers CEUs and is an approved provider of Washington State Clock Hours, Oregon PDUs, and Pennsylvania ACT 48 Hours.



Continuing Education Quarter credits are awarded by Antioch University Seattle (AUS). AUS requires 75% or better for credit at the 400 level and 85% or better to issue credit at the 500 level. These criteria refer both to the amount and quality of work submitted.

  1. Completion of Information Acquisition assignments 30%
  2. Completion of Learning Application assignments 40%
  3. Completion of Integration Paper assignment 30%


CREDIT/NO CREDIT (No Letter Grades or Numeric Equivalents on Transcripts)
Antioch University Seattle (AUS) Continuing Education Quarter credit is offered on a Credit/No Credit basis; neither letter grades nor numeric equivalents are on a transcript. 400 level credit is equal to a "C" or better, 500 level credit is equal to a "B" or better. This information is on the back of the transcript.

AUS Continuing Education quarter credits may or may not be accepted into degree programs. Prior to registering, determine with your district personnel, department head, or state education office the acceptability of these credits for your purpose.



This course will use the book, The Gratitude Project: How the Science of Thankfulness can Rewire Our Brains for Resilience, Optimism, and the Greater Good. Editors are Jeremy Smith, Kira Newman, Jason, Marsh, and Dacher Keltner. ISBN:  978-1-68403-461-1.

Available from $17.95

None. All reading is online.





Assignments done in a course forum will show responses from all educators who have or are taking the course independently. Feel free to read and respond to others' comments. 
Group participants can only view and respond to their group members in the Forum. 

Assignment #1: Introduction

Introduce yourself, your professional situation, and your reasons for choosing this course.

Take the Gratitude Quiz:   

When you are done, get your gratitude score, assess your results, and then discuss the goals you have set for yourself by taking this course.

All group participants are required to complete this assignment independently.

Assignment #2: Understanding Gratitude

Read pgs. 21-26, in your text, The Gratitude Project.

View the videos:
The Feeling Creates the Healing, Dr. Joe Dispenza.

Gratitude As a Gateway to Presence, Br. David Steindl-Rast

Gratitude, Eckhart Tolle

In a 500+ word essay, share your thoughts about how feelings create healing and gratitude. Explain the process of gratitude and why it is a crucial component of happiness, one that we have always known about but not understood. Share how the videos have increased your ability to embrace gratitude and its benefits.

All group participants are required to read this assignment, the required text pages, and watch the videos.

Assignment #3: Roots & Meaning of Gratitude

Read pgs. 3-20, in your text, The Gratitude Project.
View the following videos.

Use one of the following apps (see below) to create a visual slideshow to demonstrate your learning about the roots and meaning of gratefulness. Include both the videos and reading. 

(Apps: Google Slides, Prezi or Adobe Spark)
Your slideshow

  • A picture or illustration to represent gratitude.
  • A picture or illustration to represent gratitude as healing.
  • A picture or illustration to exemplify why gratitude matters.
  • A picture (s) to show the three levels of gratitude.
  • A picture or photo to show a time when gratitude has been meaningful to you.
  • 3 pictures exemplify ways you can bring gratitude to the forefront of student’s minds.

Add notes to explain each slide as it relates to the learning or audio narrate your presentation.
Write a description of why you made each choice and how it connects with the reading and the videos.

All group participants are required to read this assignment, the required text pages, and watch the videos.

Assignment #4: What the Brain Reveals About Gratitude

Read pgs. 27-35 in your text, The Gratitude Project.

Watch the following videos:

Read the following:

Write a letter to a colleague or administrator explaining what you have learned about the neuroscience of gratitude. Share the implications for your classroom or school, and the science of gratitude needs to be examined. 450-500 words.

All group participants are required to read this assignment, the required text pages, and watch the videos.

Assignment #5: Benefits of Gratitude

Read pgs. 38-55 in your text, The Gratitude Project.
View the following video:
Benefits of Gratitude by Robert Emmons

Read the following:

In a 500-word response, summarize your learning while considering the following:
Links between gratitude and giving.
Links between mental and health benefits
Ways to make your brain more grateful.
Links between mood, mindset, and attitude using gratefulness.

All group participants are required to read this assignment the required text pages, and watch the video.

Assignment #6: Obstacles

View the following:
Gratitude Gives You Access to The Deepest Parts Of Your Nervous System

Then, continue to explore the obstacles to gratitude. Read the following articles:


Create a Venn Diagram that shows the difficulties, the obstacles, and the things you are already doing or have tried or areas where you have struggled.

Use a mind map format to include pictures, images, and helpful hints. Surrounding the diagram, include hints of how you plan to overcome the obstacles and challenges. You can use words, pictures, or graphics. This should be a realistic vision of your expectations and experiences in the past. It should show how you can move past gratitude schmatitude.

All group participants are required to read this assignment and the required articles and watch the video.

Assignment #7: Cultivating Gratefulness

Read pgs. 74-90 in your text, The Gratitude Project.

Watch the THREE of the following videos:

Do this practice for the next five to seven days:

  • Reflect on and write one thing that made you happy that day. Push a little deeper by thinking about it and describing at least two more associated words and why you were happy.
  • Reflect on and write one thing someone else did nice for you today. This doesn’t have to be anything big either, just something someone did for you that was nice.
  • Reflect on and write one thing you did nice for someone today. I’m certain you did many things nice for others; the point is picking one, reflecting on it, and writing about it.
  • If you feel distracted, lessen your time to make your practice comfortable and worthwhile. It is helpful when you begin to cultivate engaging every day.


In 400-500+ words, detail your experience cultivating gratefulness, the connection with happiness, and the critical science that helps cultivate gratefulness. Connect that experience with your reading and the videos.

All group participants are required to read this assignment, the required text pages, and watch the videos.

Assignment #8: Tips for Cultivating Grateful Living

View the following video:

Visit the website
Read and view the Five Guiding Principles that can serve as touchstones to support your practice with gratefulness.  

Five Principles: 

Then, view the curated collection of resources for each principle. Hint: they are located just below the video and start with Discover this Principle.

Create an infographic based on the two to three principles. If you viewed all five, please include them. Your infographic should represent a plan for your experiments with gratefulness. It should include images as well as text. 

You can use the following free web tool to create an infographic:

All group participants are required to read this assignment and the required articles and watch the video.

Assignment #9: Giving & Cultivating Gratitude

View the videos:

Cultivating thankfulness through a Letter of Thanks.

Choose ONE of the options below:

Set aside private time to author a letter of gratitude to someone you have wanted to thank, someone you are extremely grateful for, a relative, friend, colleague, or partner.

  • Pick someone still alive that you can share your letter with. 
  • Make a final copy you can give away when done.
  • Keep your letter to about one page.
  • When you are ready, deliver your gratitude letter to someone you never had the chance to thank.
  • Plan a visit with the recipient.

Share your experience writing the letter, the visit, the idea of thanking the recipient through a video, a 250+ word response, or a pictorial collage of images that depict the meeting. Be sure to include a written response to the pictorial collage.

All group participants are required to read this assignment and the required articles and watch the video.

Assignment #10: Fostering Gratefulness Around You

Read pgs. 136-157 in your text, The Gratefulness Project. 
Read the following articles:

Read the article and the inserted video in the article:

Gratitude a Powerful Tool for Your Classroom

Create a Google slideshow of 15-20 slides that show concrete ways you can use gratitude in the classroom, with colleagues, at home, or at your workplace. Resource your best ideas from the videos and reading.

All group participants are required to read this assignment, the required text pages, and the articles and watch the videos.

Assignment #11: Supporting Gratefulness in the Classroom

In The Gratitude Project, the author shares the role of gratitude in cultivating caring and kind students. Nurturing your classroom from the inside out allows you to reboot your teaching practice with new design thinking.

Focus on the understanding that you get good at what you practice, so make it a habit to focus on what’s right instead of what’s wrong in the classroom.
Explore the following articles, searching for tools and ideas to design your grateful classroom.

Select at least five videos to view:
22 videos to Help Kids Understand Gratitude – all levels

Share how you will address each of these components in your classroom: Interest, time, commitment, ability, and resources. You can present your ideas as an essay in 500-700 words or as a presentation. Think of this as creating a toolbox of resources so that it is easily accessible throughout the year. List at least 10 favorite ideas, one that resonates with you and is easily applicable to your classroom. You can certainly add more than ten.

All group participants are required to read this assignment, the required articles, and watch the videos.



In this section, you will apply your learning to your professional situation. This course assumes that most participants are classroom teachers who have access to students. If you do not have a classroom available to you, please contact the instructor for course modifications. Assignments done in a course forum will show responses from all educators who have or are taking the course independently. ​Feel free to read and respond to others' comments. Group participants can only view and respond to their group members in the Forum. 


Assignment #12: Parents as Partners

Create a webpage or a newsletter to teach the parents of your students about gratitude. Your newsletter or webpage should be thoughtful and professional and include tools learned in this course. Your letter or email may include:

  • A video to demonstrate gratitude.
  • A picture or graphic to represent gratitude.
  • A website they can refer to for ideas and support.
  • At least 2 ideas for parents to promote gratitude at home with their children.
  • At least 2 strategies you will implement in your class to develop gratitude in the classroom.

All group participants are required to read this assignment.

Assignment #13: Create a Lesson

Take one of the classroom application assignments from this course (it can be your own work or something you found interesting on a site) and try the lesson in your classroom.

  • Share at least two samples (photos) of student work from your class.
  • Reflect on student evidence in a 400–500-word commentary on what your student work sample demonstrates in terms of understanding gratitude, thankfulness, and kindness.
  • Submit your student samples and reflections to your instructor.
  • Share what you've learned with other teachers taking our courses by checking the lesson library box when you submit your lesson.

*Note: If you are taking this course in the summer or if you are not currently teaching in the classroom, you can create two samples that would be useful to share with students.

All group participants are required to complete this assignment independently.

Assignment #14: Gratitude Passion Project

Choose ONE of the following options:

Option A) Gratitude Journal
Research shows that expressing gratitude (being thankful for people and situations) can improve your physical and mental health. So, keeping a gratitude journal can greatly boost your well-being. You can experience gratitude without putting effort into it and be intentional about it. This is where writing about your gratitude in a journal helps. This assignment allows you to schedule “Gratitude Time.”

Read this article:

Assignment Specifics:

  1. Keep a daily journal for two weeks, writing in it every day.
  2. Write at the same time so you can create a new habit.
  3. Purchase a journal or use an idea of your own. May Cause Happiness is recommended.
  4. Choose to keep a written journal or journal visually by drawing daily, doodling, adding gratitude sketches, or taking photos of things they are grateful for.

Writing by hand requires more subtle and complicated motion from your fingers than typing, which increases activity in the brain’s motor cortex, an effect that’s similar to meditation. They feel more personal. Studies maintain that handwriting slows down your thinking and helps you be more reflective.
About Thnx4 | THNX4   Online journal.
Option B) Daily Gratitude Practice

The lists range from simple to more complex, all designed to inspire and support your willingness to engage with grateful living. 

  1. Experiment with repeating one practice every day for two weeks.
  2. Open yourself to the surprise of trying a new idea EACH day for two weeks.
  3. Switch it up
  4. Just know that the art of showing gratitude takes time. You can't focus on it one day and expect to transform your entire life overnight completely. The effect of showing gratitude is cumulative.

Keep a journal, a list of the practices you chose, your response to them, and your feelings of gratitude and joy from completing each of them daily. Send your complete response to your instructor.
Option C) Meditation and Gratitude

You will engage in gratitude using the gratitude timer and gratitude meditations for TWO weeks. You can use a different one each day or use the same one for a week.
Use a gratitude timer for your 10 minutes of time spent in gratefulness each day.

After you complete your “grateful time,” write down your thoughts in a list, a journal, through pictures or graphics.

Create a CANVA to express your time spent in 2 weeks of gratefulness meditations. Be sure to include a written response detailing your experience to accompany your CANVA. 400-500 words.

All group participants are required to read this assignment, the required articles, and watch the videos.

Assignment #15: (500 Level ONLY)

In addition to the 400-level assignment, complete TWO of the assignments:

Option A) Professional Development Presentation
Prepare a PowerPoint, Keynote, or video presentation that you can show to staff or parents that demonstrates strategies to support developing grit in the classroom.

As a teacher, you are in a unique and powerful position to help your students consider, think about, and practice gratitude.

Prepare a PowerPoint, Keynote, or video presentation you can show to staff or parents, demonstrating strategies and tools to support developing gratitude in the classroom.
Option B
) Research Paper
Identify three research studies related to gratefulness at elementary, middle, or high school (select the grade level you are teaching or planning on teaching). Write a summary of each study and determine how you would implement the ideas and strategies in your classroom teaching and planning how you would implement the ideas and strategies in your classroom teaching and planning.

Ideas include:

  • Gratefulness in other cultures
  • Gender Differences in Gratefulness
  • Neuroscience of gratefulness
  • Gratefulness, the family, entitlement, and the role of technology

Option C)
Read a Personal Choice
Read one of the following books and write a 400 – 500 word paper on your findings.

Brother David Steindl-Rast & Henri J. M. Nouwen. 1984.
Gratefulness, the Heart of Prayer. Paulist Press.
ISBN: 978-0-8091-2628-6 (240 pages)
Humington, Andrew. 2023. The Neuroscience of Gratitude:
Why Self-Help Has It All Wrong. Neuromastery Lab.
ISBN:  978-8854-1-89880 (124 pages - Kindle)
Option D)
A project of your own choosing.
Must have instructor approval.

All 500-level participants are required to complete this assignment independently.


Assignment #16: (Required for 400 and 500 level)

(Please do not write this paper until you've completed all of your other assignments)

Write a 400-500 word Integration Paper answering these 5 questions:

  1. What did you learn vs. what you expected to learn from this course?
  2. What aspects of the course were most helpful and why?
  3. What further knowledge and skills in this general area do you feel you need?
  4. How, when and where will you use what you have learned?
  5. How and with what other school or community members might you share what you learned?


Instructors will comment on each assignment. If you do not hear from the instructor within a few days of posting your assignment, please get in touch with them immediately.


Brenda McKinney, CEO of Vancouver, WA based BrainVolution, is a developer and dynamic facilitator of workshops that teach practical thinking and learning tools for raising student achievement with the brain in mind. She has trained educators throughout the Pacific Northwest and is a popular presenter because of her ability to motivate, make things fun, and teach practical techniques for the classroom that can be used immediately. Brenda continues to read hundreds of books and articles on the subject of neuroscience and searches for the answer to success for every student. Her work with at-risk students and those with reading problems have made her a popular speaker at the state, regional and national level.

Brenda is able to synthesize the new research and continues to address the role of how to use the latest findings to create high achievement classroom. She brings 30+ years of experience at the elementary, middle school, high school and university level as a mentor teacher, consultant, motivational speaker, university instructor, and reading specialist. Brenda has her Master’s in Education from Washington State University and is nationally certified in Brain Based Learning through the renowned  Jensen Corporation, led by Eric Jensen, a noted international spokesperson for neuroscience and education.


Brenda will inspire and motivate you with her energy, enthusiasm and knowledge. Her wisdom, techniques, and brain based approach to education will inspire you and challenge you to meet the demands of this ever changing world.



GRATITUDE: A Powerful Classroom Tool  The Gratitude Project Book Trailer.
Take time to preview the trailer for the book. It will inspire you to get started.

Editors: Jeremy Adam Smith (Editor), Kira M. Newman. 2020. The Gratitude Project: How the Science of Thankfulness Can Rewire Our Brains for Resilience, Optimism. ISBN: 978-1-68403-461-1.
Your text is a resource that delivers science, comments on the research, explores the difficulties of gratitude, and is helpful in addressing implementation in the classroom. You will not be disappointed.

Emmons, Robert. 2008. Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier. ISBN: 978-0-547-08573-9
The print is small in the paperback. I recommend the hard copy. Emmons was one of the researchers who discovered that when people regularly engage in gratitude, they experience measurable benefits. The book is worth your time, and I recommend it as a second read for the course.

Humington, Andrew. 2023. The Neuroscience of Gratitude. NeuroMastery Lab. ISBN: 9798854189880.
Just published, this is a fascinating look at the neuroscience behind gratitude. This is a book you won’t want to miss. If you love learning about the brain, then this is the perfect opportunity to discover how and why gratefulness is so critical to happiness and a healthy, well-balanced lifestyle.

Steindl-Rast, David. 1984. Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life in Fullness. ISBN: 978-0-8091-2628-6.
This book has my heart and is my favorite about gratefulness. I recommend that everyone read it slowly, taking time to embrace and breathe in the thoughts of Brother David while learning more about how to reach the root of gratefulness.

Steindl-Rast, David, 2018. May Cause Happiness: A Gratitude Journal. ISBN: 9781-68384-057-8
If you want to be blessed, purchase the journal to go with your coursework. It is delightful, and Brother David helps remind you that every single day is a good day for gratefulness.

Steindl-Rast, David & Gary Fiedel. 2020. Stop Look Go: A Grateful Practice Workbook and Gratitude Journal A Grateful Practice. ISB72642-5-8N: 978-0-99
If you are serious about creating a new habit of gratefulness practice, this book is the perfect resource. Created by Brother David, it is filled with ideas for practicing. You can use it to journal or explore. This is my favorite. The activities are a blessing.

Welch, Kristin. 2015. Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World.  Tyndale Press. ISBN:978-1-49640529-6
As a parent, this is the ultimate book on gratefulness. Learning to say no and then say yes to gratefulness is a difficult lesson to instruct our children. This is a self-help book on raising grateful children. It has a spiritual component based on the author’s own journey; the advice is priceless, especially as you take a realistic look at entitled children and how to change societal pressures. I recommend it to all parents.

Gratitude Journal for Kids: A wonderful tool to teach children the value of thankfulness and how to appreciate their range of emotions from day to day. 2022.

Gratitude Works! The Science and Practice of Saying Thanks [Robert Emmons]  1 hour.
Comprehensive, scientific, and the original researcher in the field of gratitude. You will enjoy the one-hour walk through gratefulness.