If you are someone without hate, you are kind to your classmates, you include everyone when playing on the playground and you say nice things.
And you are kind every day, not just on the national Day Without Hate.
These are the ideas of the West Jefferson Elementary School first graders, who celebrated Day Without Hate with the entire school on April 29. However, April was Kindness Month throughout the school.
On Friday, students took part in yoga classes, made peace flags, spent time in kindness circles and drew pictures and messages with chalk on sidewalks and playgrounds. This year’s theme was Rise Above, so the school used it as a metaphor with the flags.
Students in the 15-minute yoga classes, taught by Julie Noyle, worked on breathing, mindfulness and focusing by using a few simple yoga poses. She asked them to close their eyes and focus on how they were feeling, and what they were hearing and tasting. After a lesson, Noyle asked second graders how they felt, and their responses ranged from calm and happy to tired and excited.
Students made small flags that were attached to rope and strung from the roof in the school’s garden courtyard. Organizers hope the flags will be a daily reminder of rising above to be kinder to each other.
The chalk artwork was a colorful reminder of happiness and positive thoughts, while in the kindness circles, students tossed a small ball to one another, with time to give specific compliments to another classmate to make the receiver feel good.
Preschoolers told each other that they liked to play together, and they told preschool teacher Julie Lee that they were glad she was their teacher.
Throughout April, the school sponsored events to thank bus drivers, first responders, military and health care workers. Students wrote thank-you cards to staff members, and they wrote kindness notes to themselves as a reminder that it was important to be kind to yourself, too.
Liz Wehr, the mountain area social/emotional learning specialist, wrote a message to the entire school explaining the reasons for the kindness activities that was read as the peace flags blew in the wind.
“When we unite with other students and accept everyone’s differences, we are experiencing how to be part of something bigger than just ourselves,” Wehr wrote. “Today and every day we will set our differences aside. We will use the power of our words to lift each other up and make each other feel good rather than bring others down. Today and every day we will go out of our way to be kind, caring and compassionate.”
She explained that the peace flags represent peace, compassion, strength, wisdom and kindness, blowing in the wind to spread messages of peace to others.
Teachers wore Day Without Hate t-shirts with a quote from poet Amanda Gorman on the back: “For there is always light if only we’re brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”