An education in kindness

Frank Wagner Elementary students learn benefits of caring for each other

Kelly Sullivan

Frank Wagner kindergartner Julisa Andrea Fraga Alcantar says she feels good when she is acting in a kind way. She was learning last week how being proactive about caring behaviors is so important, like getting to know others and doing nice things for friends.

Frank Wagner Elementary has been observing Kindness Week in conjunction with Valentine’s Day in recent years as a way to spread awareness around a simple concept of being kind, which aligns with one of the school’s core values, said Joanna Dittemore, school counselor and coordinator of the weeklong event.

The Denver-based Random Acts of Kindness Foundation supports the weeklong event every February to celebrate the idea of expressing selfless love. The nonprofit formed in 1995, and has expanded internationally.

“Ultimately, we’re striving to make kindness the standard in every aspect of life,” according to the foundation. “Whether it’s helping a stranger in need on your way to work, instilling the importance of kindness in students in a classroom, or a mutual demonstration of appreciation of those closest to us, our end-goal is to make kindness not an act at all, but a reflex.”

Frank Wagner staff and students wrote nice notes, signed posters to thank local agencies for keeping the community safe, and recognized the children who have gone above and beyond to be caring during a school-wide assembly.

One classmate was recognized for their consistently respectful behavior, Dittemore said. They always show appreciation for their peers and teachers. Another was honored for expanding her friends group. A student who was always gentle with people’s feelings was also acknowledged, and another child was voted as the kindest student by their entire class, she said.

The heartfelt work didn’t pause, even during recess.

Thursday morning classes flooded the playground after finishing their lunch. Some headed to the jungle gym, others played jump rope, and small crowds rushed over to a corner of the asphalt where two stations were set up, where a rush of creativity was unleashed.

Groups were given cards and blank stones to decorate. Dittemore and other staff planned to cover ground in Monroe once the week was over and plant the finished Kindness Rocks for others to find. She hopes when people pick up the small ornaments and see the bold “FWE” lettering, they will know what kind of intention was behind the unique gift.

The Kindness Rock Project has gained national attention since its start in 2015. The act of adorning a positive message on a stone is done to achieve two goals; to inspire others and “recruit every person who stumbles upon it to join the pursuit of inspiring others through small acts of kindness.”

UC Berkley’s Greater Good Science Center published an article almost exactly two years ago, titled “What if Schools Taught Kindness?” The authors discussed initial results of a 12-week curriculum taught in six Midwest schools. They wrote they and their colleagues were curious how mindfulness practices developed for adults could impact younger groups if they were adapted.

Pre-kindergarten students were told stories, practiced paying attention, cultivated kindness and worked on regulating their emotions for 20 minutes twice a week.

“Teaching kindness is a way to bubble up widespread transformation that doesn’t require big policy changes or extensive administrative involvement,” according to the article.

It states that the pilot program could help kids improve grades, cognitive abilities and relationships. They gained skills, such as forgiveness, gratitude, how to use emotions to learn about oneself and how to connect with the breath and body.

Second-graders Violet McReynolds and Andrea Serrano wandered over to the Kindness Rock station together on Thursday. McReynolds said she has learned giving other people turns is a way to be kind. Serrano said asking someone who has fallen if they are all right is a loving act.

The two friends agreed behaving in these ways can make them feel happy, as well as the person they are being kind toward. They said being considerate and gracious is a way to encourage those feelings every single day.


Photo by Kelly Sullivan: Frank Wagner Elementary students took part in activities for Kindness Week, including decorating Kindness Rocks and making cards in Monroe on Thursday, Feb. 15. Keep an eye out for Kindness Rocks


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