In their last couple weeks of middle school art, 8th graders were given seeds of kindness to plant and spread throughout EDS. Their assignment was to create a series of thoughtful, handmade gifts and notes to give anonymously to random students at school. They were given envelopes containing the names of children that I arbitrarily selected for them, whose ages ranged from 1st to 6th grade.
What better way is there to give thanks than to spread love and appreciation to others? Better yet, spreading love to people you don’t know very well. Sure, most of the students here at EDS have passed one another in the hall and have seen one another at carpool. 3rd graders recognize the faces of 7th graders and some even know their names. I think that many of the middle schoolers are seen as celebrities in the eyes of younger children. 3rd grade girls catch a glimpse of “Dorothy” or “Annie” from previous 5th grade musical performances in the hallways. 1st grade boys recognize the older middle school boys on the EDS football team and cheer for them at games. There’s no doubt that the older kids are great role-models for the younger kids, but sometimes I get the impression that this leaves the younger kids feeling star-stuck and a little timid.
EDS already has some great systems in play for bringing the whole EDS community together. To name a few: Panther Pals, the enrichment program, school-wide festivals, athletic teams and events, and school-wide chapel services. I put the Random Acts of Kindness into play to serve as a new form of glue to connect and bring various kids together. As the quote above says: “We have the power to make the world a beautiful place by sharing creative talents in unexpected ways.” In 8th grade, we reflect on our personal definitions of art. I wanted students to witness art’s ability to uplift spirits and bring joy to someone else’s day.
We watched clips from the movie Pay it Forward and discussed different types of kindness. We agreed that the purest form of kindness is kindness with the expectation of nothing in return. Kindness for the sake of being kind. As students worked on their art projects, several asked me if they could try to watch their student open their presents from a secret location. I explained to them that while it is tempting to see your hard work pay off, the whole idea about paying it forward is not having to see that. Don’t overly involve yourself with the situation and be kind just to be kind. One of the video clips further explained the theory of “paying it forward.” When somebody does a good deed for you, instead of paying it back, you do a good deed for someone else. Instead of paying someone back for their good deed, you pay it forward to someone new. This concept allows kindness to be spread in a chain like dominos. In the video, you’ll see, the chain of kind events circle back around to the person who planted the seed.
Many of the 8th graders coordinated with their child’s classroom teacher to figure out the logistics for their deliveries. It was a little tricky having so many teachers involved and various lunch schedules, but all of the classroom teachers were extremely accommodating. I think the 8th graders enjoyed taking on this responsibility and getting to work independently on this project. Several of them told me that they felt like spies.
I took photos of the 8th graders holding their projects before they made their deliveries. They had to attach little notes to their gifts that encouraged the receiving children to continue the chain of kindness. I’ll try to keep this post kind of anonymous. Here are some of the students 🙂 One 2nd grade classroom teacher sent me a picture of a young child receiving her Random Acts of Kindness gift. I paired it up with the picture of the 8th grader before delivering that gift. I can’t tell who is happier, the 8th grader on the left or the 2nd grader on the right? So much for trying to be totally anonymous, but this was too cute to not share!
Here are a couple journal reflections that my 8th graders wrote about their experience:
One of my favorite things about this project was that I got to see the kindness spread. I overheard younger children talking about how people were leaving kind post-its on their lockers. These children were not part of the original group of children that the 8th graders were leaving surprises for, so I knew that it had continued to spread. I am thankful to see children use art as a way to express positive communication. I am proud of the 8th graders for planting these seeds of random kindness at EDS before graduating in May. Starting a movement of kindness that inspires others is a great way to gracefully say goodbye to a community that loves you.
Thank you for a great quarter.