RENSSELAER — Shannon Anderson’s third-grade class at Van Rensselaer Elementary School recently spent some of the closing days of the school year with a new version of her annual class kindness projects.
For these new projects, every student had to come up with their own unusual way to “spread kindness” to someone in their life. These projects are something of an extension to a more basic writing project Anderson’s students already do every fall.
“I do another kindness project earlier in the year, that I’ve done every year,” she said last week, “where they actually write things about what they appreciate about each other, give compliments to them.”
This year, though, Anderson had something new that she wanted to try, where her students could directly help someone outside the class in need of kindness.
“I just feel like, with this age of bullying, we have a lot of negativity in the world that I want to teach these kids that kindness always wins, and that kindness is important and it matters, and it can make a difference in someone’s day or in their lives,” Anderson said. “So they had to each come up with how they wanted to spread kindness.”
The subject of these projects could have been just about anyone, from a member of a student’s family to public servants like police officers or firefighters and anyone in between.
After the students decided on a subject, they had to decide how they would show kindness to them. One wrinkle in that plan was that some of those projects ended up requiring money.
To handle that, Anderson limited the money the kids were allowed to spend to around $5. And the kids had to earn that $5 from some activity at home, such as by doing chores around their house.
“A lot of them have projects that don’t cost anything,” she said. “They’re just doing nice things for others.”
In any case, Anderson said some of the kids are so enthusiastic about their kindness projects that they are requesting extra time to stay in from recess, just to do more work on them.
For his project, Asher Bausman gave cookies to police officers at the Rensselaer Police Department. Bausman said he was inspired to give cookies to them after hearing about all the ways people have given to local first responders in the community.
His class also took a field trip to the police station earlier this year. To earn his $5, Bausman cleaned the bathroom and his room.
For their projects, Reese Groom and Hadley Hopp gave treats and toys to the Jasper County Animal Shelter. Both of the girls felt inspired to give gifts to the shelter because of their own pets or seeing family members care for animals. Groom said she has a dog and four horses.
“My grandma, she went to go look at (the shelter animals), because she was thinking about getting another dog,” said Hopp, who also has a dog and two horses. The girls either cleaned their room or cleaned up things that their pets had torn up around the house to earn money for their gifts.
Last week, the kids took brief field trips to the shelter and the station to personally hand over their gifts, all in the hope of spreading a little more kindness to those who need it.