McNary Heights Elementary School students learned kindness is contagious after they spent this week completing acts that made other people feel good.
The students spent all this week participating in “The Great Kindness Challenge,” where they checked off items from a list of 50 acts that included things like “smile at 25 people” or “make a new friend.” They were then encouraged to complete some kind acts that they made up themselves.
Fifth-grader Thalia Trujillo said she gave an apple to a teacher as one of the acts of kindness she performed this week. Fourth-grader Emilio Jaimez said he helped his physical education teacher carry in equipment and checked off 35 kind acts from the challenge list this week.
Additionally, students had activities they completed during lunch and recess that emphasized being kind to one another and teachers. During one recess, students swarmed the table out on the playground in an effort to write someone a kind note.
“It was chaos. It was so popular,” fifth-grader and class Vice President Taylor Durfey said laughing.
What was especially great about the week, many students said, was that no awards were given for the effort.
“It was all just for fun,” fifth-grader and class President Marisol Santa Cruz said Friday.
In addition to doing the kind acts for their classmates and teachers, some older students also had another motive: teaching the younger students what kindness at school looks like.
“We wanted to show first-graders and kindergartners to be more kind to people,” Trujillo said.
The project was organized by McNary Heights Vice Principal Rick Cotterell and the student body at the school. Cotterell said he received an email inviting him to participate in a webinar about the challenge and liked what he heard. He then presented the idea to the student council, who elected to take it on as a project.
“I feel this week was very successful,” Cotterell said. “I saw a lot of students start the week in competition mode, being kind in order to try and fill their sheet. However, by the end of the week, I think everyone was just having fun doing things for others. We moved from the extrinsic to the intrinsic and really saw our school’s culture of kindness come to life.”
In particular, Cotterell said he saw a lot more smiles on students’ faces as they were challenged to smile at people they saw at school.
“I must have been on everyone’s list because I am sure I saw all 676 of those little smiles this week,” he said.
Cotterell said it will be fun to analyze all the data collected from the week to see how many acts of kindness students completed school-wide throughout the week.
Many students said they found the experience of being kinder than usual a “fun” and positive experience. Many said they will also continue doing the same kind acts now that they have seen what kind of an impact it has on others.
“I will definitely keep doing kind things,” Durfey said.