Overton Elementary celebrates a week of kindness

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 30, 2018

SALISBURY — Overton Elementary School counselor Rosemary Wood said she didn’t know about the Great Kindness Challenge until she and the Overton Cares Committee asked third-, fourth- and fifth-graders how the school could prevent bullying.

“It was when we were doing (problem-based learning) and we asked … what ideas they had for bullying,” Wood said. “… We said, ‘This is a problem. What can we do about it?'”

As the committee members researched that question, Wood said they came across the Great Kindness Challenge website.

The Great Kindness Challenge — which, according to its website, has reached more than 10 million students in 15,000 schools in 91 countries — gives educators, families and communities resources to help them act more kindly toward one another.

Wood said Overton already focuses on its students’ emotional and social well-being.

“When kids have a sense of belonging and especially when they have that great teacher-student relationship, it promotes academics. Not having that school bonding and (having) experience with bullying will lead to more absenteeism, and kids might have school phobia,” Wood said.

Wood said the Great Kindness Challenge provides a next step toward that goal, with the organization sharing kindness checklists for students and toolkits for staff and volunteers to follow.

Some of the items on the student kindness checklists include smiling at 25 people, picking up 10 pieces of trash on campus and saying thank you to a crossing guard.

Wood said that even on the first day of the weeklong program, she saw students thinking more about ways to be kind.

“I was in a first-grade class that had a student who’s only been here a few days. Several of (the students) mentioned ways they’d been helpful to him,” Wood said.

The Great Kindness Challenge began Monday. Wood said that each day of the week will bring a different kindness-themed activity.

Today will involve decorating a large rock that will become permanent at the school; Wednesday will include a kindness station at recess sponsored by the PTA; and Thursday will include collaborative recess games.

On the final day of the challenge, Friday, Wood said the school will dedicate its new “buddy benches.”

“They’re to be used during recess if (a student) needs someone to play with,” Wood said.

She said students who sit on the benches may be in need of a friend or just someone to play with that day. Students who are not sitting on a bench are expected to ask those who are  to join them in whatever game they are playing.

Wood said the school also wants students to take a “humungous” school photo Friday afternoon. She’s hoping the students will stand in a giant heart formation.

Wood said she hopes the kindness generated at Overton this week will leak out into the larger Salisbury community.

“There is such a need for training in this area,” Wood said. “We really want for our efforts to be a spark that puts energy in the community, not just our school community. It will start with the kids and include the parents, and it’s going to get bigger and bigger.”

For more information about the Great Kindness Challenge, visit thegreatkindnesschallenge.com.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.