PES staff, students participate in kindness-based, anti-bullying campaign –
Acts of kindness are the simplest way to be the change we want to see in the world, according to Sarah Hardin, School Counselor at Peebles Elementary.
Hardin, along with the PES staff and local PTO, brought that “acts of kindness” message front and center during National Bullying Prevention Month. In their effort to educate students about the negative impact of bullying, Hardin and the PES staff chose to take a proactive (kind) rather than a reactive (anti-bullying) approach.
“By choosing to focus on acts of kindness instead of anti-bullying, we’re starting a new conversation about bullying that clearly defines it and helps our students understand what it is and isn’t,” says Hardin.
Throughout the month PES staff and the students discussed the definition of bullying, what it looks like, and how kids should deal with it if it happens to them, or if they see it happening to someone else.
“It seems like the more you talk about bullying the more kids are using the word incorrectly,” says Hardin. “It’s a very big word that we do not take lightly at all, and when it is used, we want it to be used appropriately – teaching kids what bullying is and is not allows us to be to better address the problem.”
While schools once relied heavily on the classic approach of piling students into an auditorium to be lectured on the dangers of bullying, multiple studies have shown that anti-bullying intervention is more effective when students are actively involved with their peers in hands-on activities demonstrating kindness.
“We wanted to teach the kids the importance of kindness and what happens when we are kind to one another,” said Hardin. “We wanted them to understand that an act of kindness can start a chain reaction leading to more acts of kindness. It was a different approach to take rather than having a whole conversation about bullying and all its negative connotations.”
As part of her bullying-awareness campaign, Hardin provided each of the students a month-long calendar listing a different kindness activity to be completed each day.
“The activities were simple,” she says. “Things like opening a door for someone, or picking something up for another student, or paying someone a compliment.”
Hardin also implemented a character education program offered to schools by Project Love and Duck Tape called “Stick Together”. The program provides a fun and different way for students to explore the important social-emotional learning concepts of kindness and sticking together to combat bullying and negative behaviors in schools.
Third-grader Chase Shoemaker, says the Duck Tape project was his favorite.
“We all need to stick together as a group and help each other when there is bullying,” he said.
His classmate, Alissa Smalley, agreed. “Duck Tape was great,” she said. “It taught us to stick together by being kind.”
Students also participated in a coin drive to raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
“We have several individuals in the building whose lives have been affected by these diseases, and we thought it would be a good opportunity to raise funds and promote awareness,” says Hardin. “The kids emptied their piggy banks, and it was really amazing to see them giving like that.”
The coin drive also spurred competition between the classes.
“The kids were very competitive,” said second grade teacher, Angie Raynard. “It was a fun way for them to show their support and send messages of encouragement to those who are fighting these diseases.”
Balloons and a banner reading “Together we are stronger than Cancer” were hung in the school’s entrance; every classroom door was decorated with cancer ribbons; teachers and students wore cancer-awareness t-shirts and lymphoma bracelets; and students made cards to send to local families struggling with the disease.
“We wanted to send something to these families to make them feel encouraged and loved”, said Raynard.
The program was especially meaningful to second grader Beau Johnson, whose grandfather has lymphoma.
“The things we did helped my Grandpa,” he said. “That’s why I liked the cancer project best.”
“We’re making a difference,” said third grader, Rayna Beckham. “We helped other people, and that’s what I like to do.”
Hardin also recognized and incorporated October’s Drug Awareness Week in her month-long anti-bullying kindness campaign.
To bring attention to the drug epidemic, each day students and teachers dressed in different costumes including 1960’s tie-dye attire on “Peace Out Drugs” day and Halloween costumes on “Say Boo to Drugs” Day.
“We tried to reach as many people as possible through these activities,” says Hardin. “Because we wanted to show the kids that there are always opportunities to show kindness.”