Great Kindness Challenge

Friday, November 15, 2019 10:28 am
Great Kindness Challenge

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City Heights Elementary School Counselor Amber Hurst hold up one of the kindness T-shirts given to a student each week for doing something extremely kind as part of The Great Kindness Challenge.

City Heights students meeting The Great Kindness Challenge


Van Buren School District News

A grant received last year from the Van Buren School District Education Foundation is helping students at City Heights Elementary School spread kindness throughout not only their school, but also their community.

The $1,373 grant, one of 43 awarded by the foundation last year, is called The Great Kindness Challenge and it is helping City Heights counselor Amber Hurst lead the students and teachers through missions that reward acts of kindness that are going beyond the school’s walls.

Teachers enter Hurst’s office when she’s not around and select a mission for their classroom from several posted in her office.

“The challenges included things like making appreciation gifts for our custodians or reading to another classroom,” Hurst said. “One group baked cookies and walked them down to the fire department. One group went to read books to the residents at Legacy Retirement Center.”

One of the fifth-grade classes taped kindness notes to plastic dinosaurs, and then hid the toys around the playground for the kindergarten students, who then went on a dinosaur hunt to find the special messages.

Hurst said one group that’s been the recipient of the acts of kindness is the school’s custodial staff.

“If you’ve ever been in an elementary school you know how valuable these humans are,” she said. “They show kindness every day by cleaning up throw up and doing all sorts of those things that no one else wants to do. And we want to make sure they feel greatly appreciated.”

Students and teachers were also given kindness coins. When someone did something kind to or for them they reciprocated by giving that do-gooder their kindness coin. That person could then pass the coin along to someone who did something kind to them.

“The point was that the coins were to be passed on,” Hurst said. “Some of them were even passed on into our community. A child told me they gave one away at Wal-Mart. I had one tell me they gave one away at church. So they were encouraged to pass them out throughout our community, not just at our school.”

The coins have all been given out and are circulating throughout the school and community. Hurst said the only thing she needs to do now is get more coins.

“One of our third graders asked me, ‘Are we going to get kindness coins again because I need some more. I ran out,’” she said. “So I’m going to have to figure out how to get more kindness coins because we handed them all out.”

Another kindness challenge facilitated by the grant provided a boost to the kindness cause while also teaching an honesty lesson.

It involved giving the students a sheet of paper on which the outline of a large heart was printed. Inside the heart were squares and inside each square was a suggested act of kindness. When the student had completed that act they could use a crayon to color in the square.

When all the squares within the heart were filled in the student’s paper was displayed in and around the school. The student was then entered into a drawing for a special prize that was awarded at the school’s weekly Rise and Shine assembly.

“Some of the kids are not honest,” Hurst said. “They just colored in their heart without doing tasks.”

She found that out when the mother of one of the students called her office.

“One mom called me and asked if she could have another kindness heart for her son,” Hurst said. “She said her son had found out that all his friends had colored in their hearts and his wasn’t quite filled in yet so he just filled his in and turned it in. She asked if I would mind to take his down and I said I didn’t mind at all. And she said if he didn’t come and ask for another heart today he would tomorrow.”

He did show up for another heart.

“He came into my office and said, ‘Miss Hurst, I wasn’t honest. I filled in my heart and didn’t actually complete those activities,’” she said. “So these things are teaching our kids more than just being kind. It’s teaching them about putting others first and teaching them about how to be honest and truthful.”

The students aren’t the only ones benefiting from the acts-of-kindness missions.

“It’s also been a challenge for our teachers,” said Hurst. “With the grant money I was able to purchase some prizes for our teachers. So I had this cart I would drive around through the hallways and when a teacher had completed her challenge they got to choose things like fancy binder clips, fancy file folders, a whole package of card stock all for themselves. The things that elementary school teachers want are not what most people want, but I promise you they were super excited to see that cart coming to their room.”

Hurst said her favorite part of the grant has been the kindness T-shirts given at the Rise and Shines to students who’ve been nominated by teachers for committing very special acts of kindness.

“With the grant money we were able to purchase the T-shirts in various sizes,” she said. “They get this shirt when a teacher nominates them for doing something extremely kind, something out of the ordinary, not just normal good manners.”

Hurst said she recently awarded a shirt to a young boy who has been helping a classmate who has to use crutches.

“There is a boy in their class who is on crutches and has been on crutches for quite some time,” she said. “This student helps that student without being asked, whether it be picking up his papers or carrying his backpack or making sure his lunchbox gets to the cafeteria. He is constantly helping his friend even when he’s not asked to.”

The Great Kindness Challenge has been issued at City Heights Elementary School and is being met with flying colors.