Creating a culture of caring and belonging is an important goal in all Arlington schools, and there is no better time than the dark, cold days of winter to turn everyone’s attention to kindness. For two schools, Ottoson Middle School and Hardy Elementary School, devoting a week to expressions of kindness has become an annual tradition.
For many years, Ottoson has centered its activities around The Great Kindness Challenge, an international program that aims to get young people thinking about, and participating in, acts of kindness. Each day throughout the week of January 23-27 included activities. On Monday, “Shine Bright with Kindness”, the students dressed in neon colors and were introduced to a Checklist of Kind Acts and encouraged to do as many of them as possible during the next few days. They also received the blank yellow strips of paper that would be used to create a Kindness Sun, and it was the start of a food drive collection for Arlington EATS that lasted all week..
Tuesday’s theme was “Dream of Kindness” so wearing pajamas was encouraged. Work on the rays of kindness continued, and students could visit a Kindness Station set up in the lobby during lunchtime where they wrote kind notes to their teachers. Students were encouraged to wear sports team or club attire on “Team Kindness” Wednesday , to wear tie dyed colors on “Peace Love & Kindness” Thursday, and OMS/or Arlington clothes or colors on “Ottoson Cares About Kindness” Friday. Also on Friday, the Kindness Sun filled with kind phrases was put together and displayed and the teachers received their notes of Kindness in their mail boxes.
Special attention was given to acts and expressions of kindness at Hardy during the week of Feb 13-17. Some activities were school-wide, such as the creation of brightly colored kindness cards that were displayed throughout the school. Everyone was involved in creating these cards with warm messages from students to fellow students, from students to teachers, and from teachers to other teachers.
Other activities were specific to individual classrooms. “Complemats” were very popular. These placemat-sized sheets of paper were placed at each student’s seat and their classmates circulated throughout the room writing positive things to each person. Some classes created “Warm Fuzzies”, small plush balls with facial features attached to notes of kindness. Dressing up was especially popular in the fifth grade where students dressed in neon colors to “Shine Bright with Kindness”. Many classes considered what it meant to be kind and wrote about it. The Kindergarten students expanded their kindness thoughts and activities beyond the school, focusing on what it means to be kind to our planet. On the last day everyone was encouraged to wear pajamas or other cozy clothes.
Both schools looked at ways to keep kindness going. Ottoson created a February Kindness Calendar and encouraged students to keep the momentum going by completing a new activity every day. Teachers and students at Hardy have worked together to identify three words that they believe are expressions of the inscription on the building–”Here we train hand, mind, and heart, for the common good.” The words they have chosen are Safe, Kind, and Responsible and the school is working on ways to keep these in the forefront throughout the year.