Local students charged with kindness challenges
Last week, at least two local schools took on the Great Kindness Challenge, an international effort to promote a culture of kindness among schools and families.
The Great Kindness Challenge was created by the nonprofit Kids for Peace to provide to schools a tool for creating a positive school environment. In 2017, 10,493,866 students participated and performed over half a billion acts of kindness nationwide.
The Great Kindness Challenge is a positive, proactive bullying prevention initiative, reaching millions of students during the last full week of January every year.
The weeklong event encourages schools to promote kindness by giving students challenges to complete and celebrating in unusual ways. A checklist of tasks that express kindness is handed out to students, with items such as "smile at 25 people," "sit with a new group of kids at lunch" and "say thank you to a volunteer."
North Marion Middle School, which did the challenge for the first time this year, kicked off the week with an assembly, during which the eighth-grade choir sang and students watched a kindness video.
"We have a list of things we are going to do to demonstrate kindness abundantly, all with the belief that a cognizant focus on kindness with direct modeling and opportunities to express it, will help our students create the safe, kind and welcoming culture we want at NMMS," Principal David Sheldon wrote in an email before the Kindness Week began.
Throughout the week, members of local organizations, including the Aurora and Hubbard fire districts, Columbia Helicopters and Woodburn Kiwanis, greeted students in the morning with high fives and inspirational kindness quotes or objects.
During lunch periods throughout the week, students could write what they're thankful for on a "heart of appreciation wall," write kind words on links in a kindness chain, put on kindness-themed temporary tattoos, take selfies using "kindness selfie" frames and post it on their social media pages, and sign enormous thank-you cards for local city councils.
Wednesday was a door decorating contest day, with Hubbard Police Chief David Rash being invited to serve as a judge alongside Sheldon. Students came up with creative ways to display kindness on the entrance to their classrooms.
"It was just a terrific week that helped our climate focus on what we want from each other," Sheldon said about the week. "It was especially timely considering what happened last week (the death of a North Marion student)."
At Heritage Elementary School, the challenge took on a slightly different form since the targeted age group is a bit younger. To help remind students that kindness matters, the school invited Woodburn police officers and firefighters, Santa Claus, Rudolph and Superman.
The Woodburn police officers and firefighters helped the school kick off the week in a Monday assembly, which included the school choir singing "The Kind Hearted Hands" song.
Staff and students were encouraged to dress up for Spirit Days throughout the week as a way of showing a commitment to kindness. There was Tied Together by Kindness Day (wear a tie), Powered by Kindness Day (dress like a superhero), Global Kindness Day (dress in a cultural costume from around the world), Be Kind Day (dress as a bee or a bug) and Be Kind, Don't Dis Me Day (dress as a Disney character).
In addition to the Spirit Days, students were given the checklists with 50 items on them. Students who completed all 50 challenges were selected to make a kindhearted poster, which kids decorate by putting paint on their hands. The poster will be hung by the front entrance of the building.
Additionally, students were encouraged to enter an essay contest that asked the question: "How can kindness change our world?"
Each classroom made a kindness chain, which invited each student to write something kind about another person on one of the links. The chains from the different classrooms were all connected and hung from the cafeteria ceiling.
Even staff members got involved, and not just in the Spirit Days. In the staff room, a huge heart was posted on a wall on which Heritage employees could write kind things about one another.
Thursday's recess periods had a kindness station with art supplies, allowing students to make kindness bookmarks or greeting cards for someone special in their lives.
"We feel this week is really valuable for our students because it puts the focus on reaching out to others," explained Heritage Counselor Rita McClellan. "That is an important step in an anti-bullying program — thinking about others instead of ourselves."