Kindness wasn’t just a slogan but a way of life recently at Silas Wood Sixth Grade Center in Huntington Station.
Participating in The Great Kindness Challenge, a national campaign to encourage children and their families to treat people with more compassion, the sixth-graders spent a week learning their lessons infused with ways to be kind. The week culminated in a gigantic book donation, with kids toting in nearly 5,000 books that will go The Book Fairies in Freeport, and then distributed to those in need.
Four members of the school’s student council–Brooke, Matt, Anna and Erin–described the positive experiences of thinking more about classmates and ensuring that no child felt left out of friendship.
Matt said, “Most kids come off as rude. They don’t try to say anything to anyone,” under normal circumstances.
But Erin and the other three saw a change during the kindness challenge.
“I could see a difference in the hall,” she said.
“No one was talking to new people,” Anna said. Kindness week, “Made someone’s day a little brighter.”
“This gave people who are sad something to look forward to,” Brooke said.
The week incorporated such activities as dressing up as characters from their favorite books. “We feel better on dress-up days,” Erin said.
Walt Whitman High School’s Wildcat mascot participated in some activities, which made the students very happy, Anna said.
The week included a guest assembly speaker who talked about losing a child but fired up the students to appreciate others and to help out those in need.
When it came time to donate books, the speaker was a key motivator, the students said. That led to the students eagerly digging into their stash of books, with mixed responses from their parents, they said.
“I was trying to get rid of my childhood books,” Matt said, but his mother didn’t want to give them all up. “I told her, ‘Mom, you’re a hoarder’,” Matt said. Others gave up favorite books or in some cases, books they hadn’t read because they had so many others.
Asked about the value of the campaign, Principal Stephen Toto said, “They appreciate each other, I think, a little bit more. They have a sense of satisfaction that they’re making someone else feel better, feel good about themselves, as well as receiving notes and compliments about themselves from their classmates, from their teachers, which also made them feel really good about themselves.”
The students drew on a checklist of 50 suggestions on ways to be kind, to other students, teachers and other staff in the building.