"Kindness is being nice to people, and it helps people," said Blue Ridge School third-grader William Perez. "You can make their day by being their friend."
Leading up to World Kindness Day on Nov. 13, Blue Ridge School devoted a whole week to kindness in each "special" class, as "we're trying to build good citizens (with) a mindset of 'We need to take care of our neighbors,'" said Principal Christine Long. "We're a family here, and we want our students to look at one another like family."
Students rotate through the school's various specials — such as art, guidance (a life-skills class), physical education, media, music and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) — daily, and "our specials teachers really came together on this to put the plan in motion," Long said. "They do an incredible job of making their lessons fun and making the content relevant."
Music and physical education partnered for a kindness song and dance, while art classes made letters and giant posters to display around the school. STEM focused on kindness to the planet by creating products from recycled materials, media classes discussed being kind online rather than cyberbullying, and guidance made a video about kindness inside the school, which can be viewed on YouTube at https://youtu.be/Z00wKMUrWpE.
Media specialist Courtney Taylor had students react to "read-alouds" about kindness on Flipgrid, which is "like a classroom social media," in order to "put into practice what they learned," she said. "They've really enjoyed everything" the whole week, and "it's pretty powerful."
Art students produced kindness drawings and then a "collaborative piece for the hallway with different artistic representations of kindness," including rainbows, said art teacher Natalie Manget. The theme for the collaborative art is "Be a rainbow in somebody else's cloud."
In her STEM classes, Cynthia Martinez and her students used plastic bags to make jump ropes. With each student bringing 25-30 bags, she estimates nearly 10,000 bags were recycled in the endeavor.
"That's a lot of bags kept out of landfills and water," she said. "We're being kind to the environment, but we're also being kind to our bodies by exercising with jump rope."
"We're helping the Earth by not wasting," said third-grader Yoselen Jaime. "We can make something fun (that) helps you exercise."
Perez and Jaime both spotlighted the song and dance they learned in gym and music as their favorite kindness activity.
"Kindness is a muscle" that must be exercised regularly, Perez learned from the song, and "I'm pretty good at the dance."
The song "helps me remember" important lessons about the power of kindness, and "I want to sing it over and over," Jaime said. "If somebody is sad, you can help them by being kind, (and that) makes me happy."
"It's great when people are kind," Perez said. "You have to treat people the way you want to be treated."
At Blue Ridge, "learning is our job," but that learning includes "figuring out ways we can take care of each other and show compassion," Long said. "We have to display kindness, because kids mirror what they see us doing."