Saugus district schools participate in Great Kindness Challenge
It was a Monday afternoon at Rosedell Elementary North Campus, where fifth- and sixth-students are separated from the younger students, almost like a “practice” junior high school as some students described it, and it’s loud.
It’s no surprise students made a lot of noise, squealing, laughing and screaming, as they enjoyed their break — but it’s no ordinary Monday. Students played minute-to-win-it games such musical chairs, mummy-wrapping and more, all while students encouraged and said kind things to one another.
“I’ve been having a lot of fun and seeing people do these challenges,” said fifth-grader Joseph Jose. “This is like one of the best school days I’ve had so far.”
Jose and sixth-grader Cadence Charrow are members of Rosedell’s student spirit and events committee, one of many student groups on campus designed to provide leadership opportunities and create connections. The committee worked with site administrators to come up with activities as part of the Saugus Union School District’s participation in the Great Kindness Challenge.
“We talked about it at a meeting and since it’s also the 90th day of school, which is halfway through the school year, we decided that we would do like little to minute type of games,” Charrow said. “Then we decided to incorporate kindness because it’s also the start of the Great Kindness Challenge.”
Both students were overjoyed at the success of their committee’s activities. They also shared the sentiment that it’s good to be kind because “kindness can go a long way,” and “one small kind gesture can lead up to something really good.”
The Saugus district kicked off its participation in the Great Kindness Challenge, a week of students and families performing as many kind deeds as possible. The week looked different at each school site and at each grade level as staff adjusted activities to be more grade-level appropriate for students.
“We are using a lot of resources that the Great Kindness Challenge put out, but our school social workers have compiled and sifted through the research that was put out and they helped us tailor down the most impactful and useful for us in our schools,” said Michelle Barries, assistant superintendent of student support services.
The Great Kindness Challenge was launched in 2011 by Kids for Peace, a nonprofit based in Carlsbad. The challenge has grown into a movement with nearly 17 million students from 33,000 schools in 115 countries. The Saugus district prepared a number of activities and lessons on the topic of kindness for its students in tandem with its spirit week.
According to Kennelyn Celeste, principal at Rosedell, kindness is something that is taught all year-round. However, this particular week is almost like a culmination of sorts and tons of excitement.
Staff at Rosedell have also been working on social-emotional lessons. Student get to share every day, and part of that is learning how to express their emotions.
“There’s a big difference in students being able to identify, like, ‘I’m feeling a certain way,’” said Rosedell Principal Elizabeth Balena. “Naming it and then, well, what do we do with that when you feel that? That’s what we’ve been building up for the first half of the year. We’ve really been focused and working on that in hopes that they understand.”
“When we get to this kind of stage, all those wonderful things that we’ve been working on, that’s what we want to see every day, not just this week, but every day of the year,” she continued.
Celeste also mentioned how important it is to create opportunities for students to participate, whether it’s student leadership or on-campus activities like spirit week or the Great Kindness Challenge, because it gets kids excited to come to school.
“They know that when we message about spirit days there’s going to be a lot of excitement. We have a really amazing student leadership committees that really get kids excited about things,” Celeste said.
On Tuesday, at West Creek Academy, staff hosted multiple assemblies for different grade levels, all on topics of kindness. The last assembly of the day was for kindergarteners through second grade.
In the multi-purpose room, students wore an array of colorful pajamas with different patterns like animals or shapes and sat down one by one next to their classmates. The children giggled and listened attentively as Principal Sue Bett talked about the Great Kindness Challenge.
Bett discussed how each grade level created a paper chain, purple and blue, green too, and the last colors red, orange and yellow for the lower grades. Each student wrote a message, something kind about themselves or others, or something they’ve done, or they could draw, too, a smiley face, or anything really.
On Saturday, West Creek Academy hosted its “Matters of the Heart,” a tradition of giving back to local communities and ones across the world. The event used to be in February, but site administrators decided to combine the event in accordance with The Great Kindness Challenge.
“The students really have a chance to see how they can make a difference in the world, how their kindness can affect others,” Bett said during the event. “We also like to have a family event where parents can also be involved with the students.”
The Saugus district has participated in the Great Kindness Challenge the past three years — with the idea that, big or small, an act of kindness can make a difference.