While many of Colonial School District's schools were holding pep rallies for the Philadelphia Eagles, Conshohocken Elementary School recently held a pep rally to build excitement for The Great Kindness Challenge.
The pep rally included a skit by the teachers, as well as cheers promoting kindness and other audience participation by the kindergarten through third grade students.
"I liked the pep rally for it, because it was really fun," said Eleanor Hormell, a third grader at the school. "I got to hold up a letter with a bunch of other people to spell 'Kindness Matters.'"
Participating The Great Kindness Challenge
The Great Kindness Challenge, which is a national event held the last full week in January, encourages a positive school environment by challenging the students to complete up to 50 items on a list of kind things to do. The items varied from smiling at people, sneaking an encouraging note into a friend's backpack and saying thank you to picking up trash, making a new friend and reading a book to a younger child.
"People were making hearts and giving them to other people," said third grader Jailynn Brewer. "That was one of our things to do: cut out ten hearts and give them to ten of your friends."
Each day, the students had different projects to do related to The Great Kindness Challenge, and "kindness" was the subject at their Morning Meetings at the beginning of the school day. At recess, parents hosted a "kindness table" where the children could write thank you letters or make signs promoting kindness.
"I think we often assume a lot of things, like that kids just know how to show kindness," said Amy Campbell, a third grade teacher at the school and member of the school's climate committee. "But there are parts of it that might need to be taught and need to be modeled."
Involving the community
Items on the Great Kindness Challenge list also involved thanking the volunteers at the school and showing gratitude to staff members like secretaries, school nurses, custodians and even the superintendent. To help encourage the students to complete the challenge, volunteers, community members and parents surrounded the track on the first day to give the students high fives, fist bumps and cheers.
"We have so many great people that work with our school: the police department, the fire department, the Outreachers of Whitemarsh, retired teachers that come back and volunteer," said Mrs. Campbell. "We wanted the kids to be appreciative of all the support that we have and recognize that our community includes our classrooms and our school — and that we're also part of the Conshohocken community,"
In one of the activities, children painted 200 rocks with kindness messages to share beyond the walls of Conshohocken Elementary.
"As soon as the weather gets warmer, we're going to spread them throughout the town, so people could be walking by and have a little kindness message," said Mrs. Campbell. "The kids loved making them. It'll be fun to see them put it out into the community."
Continuing to be kind
While The Great Kindness Challenge ended on January 26, the students noticed a change in their school environment even without the special activities that surrounded the challenge.
"People were smiling at each other, being kinder to each other, being nice and not saying mean stuff to each other," said Jailynn.
"It gave them more ideas how to be kind to people," added Eleanor.
The Conshohocken Elementary staff also plans to refer back to The Great Kindness Challenge to help keep the message that "kindness matters" a top priority throughout the year.
"I have seen a difference," said Mrs. Campbell. "I think kids are putting themselves in other people's shoes a little bit more before reacting to situations and just taking the time to do something nice, even if it's just smiling at a friend or smiling at someone they don't know in the hallway. It's building an awareness that hopefully we'll be able to sustain for a long period of time."