The cafeteria at William Winchester Elementary was filled with happy chatter and the smell of paint on a recent Monday as hundreds of “kindness rocks” took shape under the brushes of students.
Schools who participate in Positive Behavior Intervention Support (PBIS) focused on kindness during the last quarter. William Winchester started “The Great Kindness Challenge,” which included classroom lessons in kindness and other activities designed to address problems with disrespect. It expanded on National Random Acts of Kindness Day, celebrated on Feb. 17.
After the school saw a big drop in the number of office referrals— 25 in February compared to about 55 in January— school staff and faculty decided to surprise them with the kindness rocks activity.
School counselor Renae Butler, who developed the activity, asked students to think about how a small word of encouragement can cheer them up when they are having a bad day.
Third-graders Kaylee Mueller, Morgan Webb and Cameryn Hood joined others from their grade doing the activity in the afternoon.
Hood said she head learned a lot about being kind from the challenge. One moment that came to mind was when a fellow student's desk spilled and a group of others pitched in to help her clean up.
Aysha Ahmadalieva painted a bright yellow flower on a blue background. “Flowers are pretty and make me happy every time I see them,” she said.
Next to her, Ella Foster painted the words “Be Happy” in soothing blue tones on her rock.
While many of the younger students hoped to keep the rocks to encourage themselves, older grades talked about leaving the encouraging art pieces out and about near their sports practice or their dance studio.
“I really am hoping they realize that by putting them out in the community they can touch the community,” Butler said.
She was grateful to Bowman's Home & Garden in Westminster, who pitched in by donating enough rocks for students in every grade level to paint one. The students decorated a banner to that they’ll deliver to the business to thank them.
Butler said it was also a way to bring in parents, who were invited to donate art supplies or volunteer during the activity.
“It’s a group effort, and it’s really taught the kids how we can all come together and support one another,” said Principal Erin Sikorski. “It’s a wonderful project.”
Ebb Valley Elementary School students expanded their kindness and encouragement into a spread set of wings now displayed in the school.
Each student designed a feather with a compliment or words of encouragement. They wrote their name on another.
Though small on their own, the little pieces of paper spread out together over the wall create a set of rainbow-colored wings long enough for three adults. The wings measure over 16 feet wide and contain over 1,000 feathers.
The wings can be used by anyone who enters the building to be “lifted up” when feeling down, according to a release from Carroll County Public Schools.