Butler Elementary students’ kindness shown in chain encircling school hallsFeb 22, 2022 08:04PM ● By Julie Slama
A Butler Elementary student walks past the kindness chain, which students made by doing or observing others perform acts of kindness during a week in January. (Julie Slama/City Journals)
By Julie Slama | [email protected]
Butler Elementary third-graders Blake Southwick invited a classmate to play at recess and Sam Schell saw his classmates clap for someone who got an answer right. Their classmate Alex Brose thanked staff at school.
That one week in January, those students as well as all the kindergartners through fifth-graders focused on kindness.
As students performed or witnessed acts of kindness, they wrote those down or put one of their names on colorful pieces of paper to create a chain around their school.
“Everyone has been super excited about it,” said Aubrey Bullough, Butler PTA kindness chairperson. “A couple of teachers that I talked to said they thought the kids are really getting into it. They’ve looked for ways to help and be helpful and to be kind. I think that being kind is really important to practice because it’s not just something that comes to everybody. It’s a skill you have to work on.”
Bullough said she learned about holding a kindness week in a state PTA training, then brought it to Butler. She brainstormed with her school PTA president Katie Mitarai to come up with having a kindness chain so “students would understand kindness is like a chain reaction” and a simple, fun way to get students involved.
For example, when Blake picked up pencils that were dropped, she received a paper link that she could write what she did. Then, she became excited when it was added to the chain and others also wanted to do something kind or notice someone so they could add to the kindness chain.
Teachers told Bullough that they heard students paying compliments or offering to help their peers learn assignments.
Students also could get links for completing a kindness bingo card with spaces for them to complete by letting someone play with a toy or writing a kind note. Alex was working on his bingo card.
“I’m doing it because I want to be kind. I told my parents, ‘I love you,’” he said.
Bullough said she saw a pattern as the links were added to the chain.
“When I first was looking through the chains at the beginning, I thought there was more about people writing what they did to help other people. By the end of the week, there are written about what others did for them,” she said.
Bullough also created themes for each day, found short videos for students to watch and then had a discussion topic and activities for them to complete.
For example, one day, students watched a video where kids put stickers on their hands and every time they saw them, they remembered to be kind. So, teachers passed out stickers with dots to students as a visual reminder to be kind to match them theme, “A little spot of kindness.”
Another day, the theme was “Color your world with kindness,” and students watched a video where “people were doing different activities and it started in black and white. Then as they did certain acts of kindness, their world started getting colorful in the animation,” Bullough said.
To go with that, students first brainstormed in their classrooms things they could do in their neighborhood to make a difference, then in the lunchroom, they could color pictures on butcher paper to be encouraging in their school community.
“Students colored pictures or wrote notes just little encouraging things like ‘you got this’ or ‘be kind’ and there were lots of pictures of suns and rainbows,” she said.
While Bullough had worked on plans for a while before Kindness Week, she was thrown for a loop shortly before it was to happen. COVID-19 case numbers had risen and as a response, Canyons School District limited volunteer visits.
“I was worried we were going to have to move kindness week after the District said volunteers couldn’t go in, but it was so nice that we had so much help from our staff and faculty. I was able to set up things and they were able to implement it. I’m really grateful,” Bullough said. “It’s a really contentious time in our world. It’s easy to get offended or to take sides. I don’t feel like that gets us anywhere and it’s a lot more important to find common ground and to be kind to each other. I thought it deserved its own week where we can practice it and have the chain and pictures left up as a reminder what it feels like to be kind.”