Children often hear reminders from parents and teachers about the importance of treating others with kindness. At Solon elementary schools, they are also receiving these messages from their peers.
“Hi, our names are Natalie Roder and Carson Adelstein and we are here to tell you about Unity Day,” the two fourth-graders told students in Ashley Keane’s third-grade classroom at Roxbury Elementary School. “It is a day where we all wear the color orange to show that we are united against bullying. Wearing orange on Unity Day also shows that we as a school support kindness, acceptance and inclusion of others.”
The girls showed the class a video about how one act of kindness can multiply. With Matisyahu’s song “One Day” in the background, a man comes to the aid of a boy who fell off his skateboard. The boy in turn helps an elderly woman with her packages. In the video, recipients of acts of kindness offer food to the hungry, a coin for a parking meter, a bottle of water to a construction worker on a hot day, and the list goes on.
After the movie, Natalie and Carson led a class discussion of the different acts of kindness they had just observed. Some of the students expressed gratitude that others have come to their assistance.
“The students learned that one small act of kindness can change someone’s whole day,” said interventionist Rachel Gross. Acts of kindness have “a ripple effect.”
Those lessons were reinforced by the fourth-graders who presented them and modeled kindheartedness, Ms. Keane added.
Natalie and Carson were among 42 fourth-graders who paired up to speak to a class at Roxbury the day before Unity Day, celebrated nationally Oct. 24. The presentations took place in all 21 classrooms for kindergarten through third grade. Similar programs took place that week at Parkside and Lewis elementary schools as well.
Unity Day is sponsored by PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center, and is the signature event of National Bullying Prevention Month. To participate, individuals, schools, communities and businesses wear or display orange to show their support for those who were bullied.
Solon Schools were celebrating Unity Day for the third year.
“This event helps with the students’ social and emotional growth in learning the importance of kindness and unity,” said Tamara Strom, director of communication services. She pointed out that Unity Day coincides with Solon Schools’ observance of Red Ribbon Week, Oct. 23 to 31, which is concerned with drug prevention.
Prior to Unity Day, Roxbury students made posters promoting the event’s themes. As follow-up, teachers have been giving “Catching Kindness” cards to deserving students, and the students give the cards to their peers. The school’s morning announcements have included examples of observed acts of kindness, ranging from holding the door open for others to helping someone who has dropped their school supplies.
The 2018 national Red Ribbon Week campaign offered another example of Solon student leadership: Taeya Moore, a student at Solon Middle School, provided the winning theme for the national event: “Life is Your Journey. Travel Drug Free.” Her theme was selected among thousands of ideas from students, parents, educators and community members.
Fourth-graders, the oldest students at Solon’s three elementary schools, serve in leadership roles throughout the year, according to Roxbury school counselor Nicole Westendorf. “Acting as role models for their peers is super powerful,” she said. The students practiced their Unity Day presentations and made posters for the event at recess.
“I enjoyed making the posters and communicating to the rest of the grades,” said fourth-grader Cindy Gao. “Presenting in front of others reminds me that I’m a leader of our school.”
Leadership and kindness themes have continued with the participation of Solon schools in philanthropic drives.
“Starting with the candy drive at Halloween through Thanksgiving and the holidays, students in all of our buildings have been engaged in charitable collections,” Ms. Strom said last week. “We’ve had a food drive for the Emergency Hunger Center and other assistance organizations at all the schools. At the high school, Key Club members have collected thousands of cans of food. Last week, the schools started toy drives, Coats for Kids and sock collections for the City Mission in advance of the upcoming holidays. In addition to participating in these efforts, student leaders have contributed supporting materials such as posters.”