School districts across the nation participated in the Great Kindness Challenge this week.
Nonprofit Kids for Peace, founded in 2006 by Danielle Gram, presents the challenge.
“At the heart of The Great Kindness Challenge is the simple belief that kindness is strength,” the website states. “We also believe that as an action is repeated, a habit is formed. With the Great Kindness Challenge checklist in hand, students have the opportunity to repeat kind act after kind act.”
Woodrow Cummins Elementary was challenged two years ago by another district and started holding the program at its school last year, initiated by assistant principal Gary Logan.
The school finished up this year’s challenge Friday with its Team Up for Kindness theme; students dressed in apparel from their favorite sports team.
“It’s been a great week,” Logan said.
The whole week, he said, revolves around kind acts and teaching their kids — teachers got involved too — to be kind and reminding them being kind and spreading joy throughout the world and the school is what life’s all about.
“It’s had a positive influence all the way around,” Logan said.
While the school may be participating in this specific challenge this week, he said promoting positive behaviors is a year-round theme at Woodrow Cummins.
“That’s what it takes for the kids to become productive members of society,” Logan said. “We’ve got to teach, you know, being kind is more than just an act that you live. You get a whole lot more out of life when you’re kind.”
He said the students have truly embodied that initiative this week and have performed acts of kindness that include smiling at people, playing with someone they don’t know and giving up their own money to buy somebody a gift.
Seeing that come to fruition, Logan said, makes him smile.
“It makes my day to know our discipline numbers are down,” he said. “Makes my day to know that kids are happy to be here.”
Logan said teaching positive character traits is more important now than ever.
“You don’t have to look very far, you can watch the news, you can read the paper and see that there’s all the time bullying [and other] different things going in schools that aren’t positive, that aren’t good and the only way I feel we can combat that is we have to instill in our kids being kind and what it means to be kind and we have to live it as adults as well,” he said.
Other schools in Faulkner County, including Greenbrier’s Westside Elementary, participated in the week-long event.
Second-grade teacher Jacklyn White manages the kindness club at the school and planned challenge for the school this week including the daily spirit dress up days.
“It has been so great,” she said.
White pulled in leaders throughout the community including members of the Greenbrier Fire Department, Faulkner County Sheriff Office’s Adam Bledsoe, 501 Magazine, the Greenbrier Police Department and Greenbrier Mayor Sammy Jo Hartwick to come and tend the kindness station and be a presence for kids throughout the week.
“Part of our motto is to invest in the whole child but it just makes such a positive impact on their learning, on their friendships and [the challenge is] just really to bring awareness of what it means for people to be kind,” White said. “How it makes you feel when you’re kind to someone and obviously how you feel when someone is kind to you.”
She said the kids have responded to the week and are learning what kindness means.
“We’ve talked a lot about being sincere, not just completing the challenges just to say ‘hey I completed the challenge,’ but to actually mean it and I have seen so many more smiles this week,” White said. “The behavior, overall, in the school this week … I don’t know if we’ve had any office referrals at all.”
She said instilling the lesson in kids now is important.
“Selfishness is an epidemic and if they can’t be kind they can’t make it in the real world and if they don’t learn now when they’re kids, I mean, what is our world going to be like when they are adults and they’re leading it,” White said. “I think it’s been a good reminder for all of us.”