If you needed a hug or simply a smile or sweetly written note, Lakeview Elementary was the place to be this week. If you drove past the school, a huge display of the word "Kindness" adorned the fence.
Lakeview and countless other schools across the county and country united to celebrate the Great Kindness Challenge (GKC). Second-graders read to kindergartners; heart notes were made and displayed; artwork was created and given to classmates and a myriad of other random acts of kindness filled the school in all grades. Each morning a student announced a "Kindness Quote" over the loud speaker.
Second grade teacher Brittany Koehn organized the effort. She said she heard about the GKC and learned it was started in 2011 by the non-profit organization Kids for Peace in California as a way to create a more positive school environment. This week over 8,000 schools participated.
"Recently I had heard a few parents at our school talk about how their children had gotten their feelings hurt by students at school, or felt like some kids were just being 'mean,'" Koehn said. "I've always thought, overall, we have been fortunate to have a great, caring group of kids at Lakeview. But then it hit me, if we have even one child in our school that is teased, bullied or made to feel that they aren't as important as everyone else, then that is one child too many."
She said Principal Tracey Burge was all for a week dedicated to the challenge. Koehn explained the students were given a checklist and challenged to perform as many acts as possible, and even to make up their own.
The purpose is for these acts of kindness to begin at school, but then overflow to home, and even out into the community.
The acts were simple and easy for the students to do and didn't cost a penny, just some time and effort.
"I think that is so important, especially in this day and age when we see and hear so much negativity to instill in the children a desire to want to do good for others," Koehn noted. "They need to know that kindness really does matter, and that even the smallest acts can make the biggest difference in someone's life."
One kindergartener, when she got home, enthused to her mommy she found a "new friend." That new friend read her a book about the importance of being nice and not saying cruel things to people. Additionally, each day was planned with a special way to dress, such as wearing a tie or scarf to express "We are Tied Together with Kindness," and wear hippie clothes or tie-dye shirts to exude "Peace, Love and Kindness.
Today, the students got to wear their PJ's to show they were "Dreaming of Kindness."
Burge said word spread quickly around the community, and a complete stranger brought special treats in for the faculty and staff. She said the woman just "wanted to be kind in return."
"As I was leaving school Wednesday, I saw people taking photos outside of our fence that has the message 'kindness' spelled out with Solo cups," said Burge.
"The message seems so simple, but in a world of challenge and negativity it takes strength to preserve such a necessary component of our well-being. If we love and treat one another with kindness, the rest will fall into place. We have a strong and loving school and we will do everything in our power to protect it."