Elementary schools embrace ‘Kindness Challenge’

Fifth grade students at Highlands Elementary School hold up art they submitted for a handball court repainting project as part of the school's participation in the Great Kindness Challenge. January 30, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

Schools across the Saugus Union School District took part in activities that highlighted acts of kindness during the “Great Kindness Challenge” this past week.

During the Jan. 21 SUSD board meeting, Superintendent Colleen Hawkins proposed declaring the week of Jan. 27-31 as the week to create positive school environments, meet goals of respect and recognize kind behavior, which passed unanimously by the board.

“One of the things we’re really trying to do is work around student relationships, having special events, things that talk about anti-bullying,” said Hawkins during the meeting. “‘The Great Kindness Challenge’ was sent to me from the state superintendent of instruction, as well as the county superintendent.”

Throughout the week, school sites came up with their own unique ways to encourage acts of kindness and to highlight students who have shown kindness to fellow students, teachers and staff.

Highlands Elementary student Ashley Lazcano takes a kindness slip as part of the school’s “Great Kindness Challenge”. January 30, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

“The students are embracing this,” said Mary Mann, principal of Cedarcreek Elementary School. “There’s a whole world among themselves and (the students) have a higher level of understanding other people’s stories, and what they’re going through.”

At Cedarcreek, students were given a list of kind acts they can do at school and home, and certain days were dedicated to specific acts of kindness such as smiling at a number of people or helping another student, said Mann.

Highlands Elementary student Emelia LaCitiva takes a kindness slip as part of the school’s “Great Kindness Challenge”. January 30, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

A program at Cedarcreek pairs students in higher grades and primary grades to help guide young students through school. During this week, each pair wrote down goals of kindness and taped them up in the school’s multi-purpose room.

Students who have shown exemplary acts of kindness were awarded at Bridgeport Elementary School to kick off the week. The activities were coordinated by the student leadership, which included writing kindness quotes and reading stories that show kindness.

Overall, the school has a goal of 1,000 random acts of kindness, and when a student shows an act, they are given a raffle ticket and acknowledged the next day. According to Principal Carin Fractor, the school will meet the goal by the end of the week.

“I’ve seen kids hold doors open for others, help clean up classrooms and make new friends at the playground,” said Fractor. “We have an overall, very kind school, but now I see intentional acts of kindness in our students.”

Highlands Elementary School students Kyah Pollock and Martin Perez place balloons in principal Susan Bender’s office as a reward for participating in the school’s “Great Kindness Challenge”. January 30, 2020. Bobby Block / The Signal.

At Highlands Elementary School, children were given a list of items they can do to show kindness. Kindergarteners were encouraged to complete five out of 10, and the other grades 25 out of 50. When students completed their list, they were able to blow up a balloon and leave it in Principal Susan Bender’s office while she is away. Other classroom-embedded activities were done as well.

“This is all just a big reminder that we can make a difference with a small thing,” said Jeri Banks, head teacher at Highlands. “I see a difference in what (the students) are doing with each other. They do small things and that’s what we want to teach them, small leads to bigger.”

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