Welches Elementary School focuses on studying compassion, kindness for the next academic year

POST PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Students of Welches Elementary dress in class-coordinated colors on Friday, Sept. 29, for the school's Rainbow Run. Every year, several schools in the Oregon trail district host a fun run of some kind to raise money for their programs. This year, Welches Elementary School made its own kind of pledge to study the concept of kindness.

Besides math, science and reading, the schools try to teach social skills, and Principal Kendra Payne hopes some targeted instruction on kindness will teach her students to find empathy in an often-negative world.

"We feel (kindness) is a really universal character trait a lot of students need," Payne said. "It's really easy to be surrounded by really negative language."

For the month of September, staff decided to have students colorfully manifest kindness in a collaborative art piece on the school's breezeway between buildings. Each class got an opportunity to design and draw a chalk depiction of kindness.

One class drew a "tree of kindness," and another surrounded the word "kindness" with synonyms written in large chalk letters on the sidewalk.

POST PHOTO: BRITTANY ALLEN - Welches' classes decorate the breezeway outside their school with colorful chalk drawings depicting kindness. The next day, the school hosted its "rainbow run," and students dressed in classroom-coordinated colors created an all-new mural on the school track. Students of all grades ran to raise money for the school's participation in the Right Brain Initiative, a program that brings an artist-in-residence into local schools to provide hands-on creative experiences.

As a school, Welches has also taken its dedication to kindness to a national level by joining the a network of schools in "The Kindness Challenge" campaign. Through this network, schools devote time to teaching kindness in classes and compete and collaborate with others in the network to spread the compassion.

"Last year we made a Mountain of Compliments," Payne said. "As we talked more we decided to go bigger with it. Really at its heart (the kindness challenge is) about members of the group challenging others to do acts of kindness."

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