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Ocean Road students perform good deeds for Kindness ChallengeGreat Kindness Challenge

Every year approximately one in three Americans wake up on January 1st resolved to improve themselves in some way. Unfortunately, less than half of those people will stick with their resolutions beyond six months. Sometimes it’s difficult to maintain the level of commitment as the calendar changes the page, other times, the goals are simply too lofty. Fortunately, not all resolutions require the resolver to make a significant time commitment, or to undertake a strict diet or intense workout, there are those resolutions that are simple to maintain yet have a profound impact that is both meaningful and lasting – resolutions like the commitment to practice kindness every day.

That is the philosophy behind the Great Kindness Challenge, a grassroots movement that encourages participants to perform as many kind deeds as possible during one week with the goal of making the world a kinder and more compassionate place.  

The Challenge was created in 2006 by Kids for Peace, an organization whose mission is to cultivate every child’s innate ability to foster peace through cross-cultural experiences and hands-on arts, service and environmental projects. What started as a neighborhood group of kids wanting to make the world a better place, has grown into an interconnected network of young peacebuilders worldwide.

Kindness ChallengeDuring the Challenge week, participants commit various acts of kindness, which they then record on a provided checklist of 50 kind acts that includes both suggestions of kind acts as well as blank spaces that encourage students to think of and perform their own good deeds.

The 2017 Great Kindness Challenge participants included over 10 million students from over 15 thousand schools in 90 countries, who together committed over 500 million acts of kindness; among that number was 1,000 acts that were perpetrated by the students at Ocean Road Elementary School.

Though the Challenge technically takes place each year during the last week of January, participating schools may opt to conduct their own Challenge at different times. At Ocean Road Elementary School, the Challenge coincided with Valentine’s Day week.

“The philosophy behind the Great Kindness Challenge somewhat aligns with the concepts of love and caring signified by Valentine’s Day, so hosting the Challenge during Valentine’s week seemed like a natural fit,” said Ocean Road Principal Sheila Buck.

Principal Buck introduced the Challenge to the school during the week preceding Valentine’s week. She hung checklists outside each class and enlisted the Fifth-Grade Character Crew to help with promotion.

“During the morning announcements, the Character Crew aired a segment called Stories of Kindness, sharing a kindness story centered on staff members,” she said.

According to Mrs. Buck, one such story focused on Ocean Road paraprofessional Dana Williams, who, along with her children, regularly volunteers at the school’s aftercare program, where they spend time with and play with special education students. That, said the principal, was just one of many stories from a week filled with kindness, compassion and caring.

“Though I expected every class would participate, I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm the students showed throughout the Challenge,” she said. “Every classroom completed numerous kind acts. Over 20 classrooms committed at least 18 challenges, which is pretty impressive considering it was only a four-day school week.”

Noteworthy good deeds were also added to a bulletin board near the main lobby, where students could also post suggestions for their peers of various good deeds.Kindness Challenge
 
“We had a lot of smiling going on at Ocean Road School,” said Special Education Teacher Pam Kendall, who is the Character Crew Advisor.  " With 34 classrooms completing ’Smile at 10 people’ it was the most completed challenge, during Kindness week.

“Cards, posters and thank you notes were another popular challenge with 112 notes, posters, signs and/or cards being sent to friends, teachers, Superintendent Smith, the custodial and cafeteria staff, our school nurse and the police department,” she said

The kindness wasn’t limited to inside the school, according to Ms. Kendall, who said the good deeds spread beyond the classroom onto the playground, at aftercare, and at home.

“One first grader saved a cat from the shelter, while another student and her family donated to a family in need,” she said. “These acts are just a small sample of the more than 1,000 acts of kindness our student committed between Feb. 13-16.

“We’re confident that what started as a challenge for one week will continue for the rest of the school year and for many of our students, for the rest of their lives,” she added.

Principal Buck said she plans to keep the Kindness Challenge posters to further inspire students to commit and repeat kind acts with the goal of developing kind habits.

“Kindness is a key component of the Point Pleasant Borough School District’s elementary Character Education curriculum; however, it’s a trait that needs to be reinforced through practice and repetition,” said Superintendent of Schools Vincent S. Smith. “By regularly demonstrating kindness and repeatedly engaging in kind acts, our students are developing positive habits that contribute to and maintain our school’s culture of kindness, acceptance and respect.
“Through their participation in the Great Kindness Challenge, Ocean Road Elementary School has communicated a powerful message that kindness matters,” he said.