A new initiative at Milton Elementary has prompted more than 6,000 acts of kindness and dramatically reduced disciplinary referrals.
Milton Elementary Social Worker Gloria Ho said the school’s Positive Behavior Support team wanted to infuse kindness into the curriculum and culture this year.
“Kindness is one of the most important things we can teach our kids, and it’s something that’s free,” Ho said. “It makes for better schools, better communities and a better world.”
The school kicked off the initiative in September with a presentation by Miguel Rodriguez from the Think Kindness organization. Rodriguez challenged students to see how many kind acts they could perform in 10 days. Ho said students went much further than that.
“Every grade level took the initiative and made it their own,” she said.
In the morning, teachers stand outside their classroom doors to welcome students with a handshake or high-five. In return, students greet their teachers with a fist bump or hug.
Each fifth-grade class has two kindness champions, chosen for positive behavior and attitude, that rotate every marking period. Champions share ideas for random acts of kindness on the morning announcements, such as finding someone new to play with at recess.
Champions capture pictures with their iPads of students being kind and post to the Instagram account @MESKindness. On Wednesdays, they read a kindness poem to younger grades during their restorative circle, when teachers and students come together in a bonding opportunity.
Students in upper grades record acts of kindness in journals and bulletin boards, and receive prizes for hitting milestones. So far, each grade has recorded over 1,000 acts of kindness, totaling over 6,000 school-wide. Ho said the school goal is to reach 10,000 acts.
Fifth-grade teacher Kristin Patton said kindness is contagious.
“We’ve seen a difference this year with our school culture and climate,” Patton said. “It’s a ripple effect of kindness. Constant recognition of kind acts are daily reminders that it feels good to be kind.”
Third-grade teacher Staci Smith said for every 10 kind acts, her students receive a piece of confetti to put on their lockers.
“They think it’s so cool, and we have students who have been struggling with writing who are getting involved and writing in their kindness journals every day, so it’s serving a dual purpose,” she said. “When they see classmates be kind, they acknowledge each other with elbow bumps or smiles.”
Smith said students have taken ownership of the initiative.
“A cool thing happened yesterday,” she said. “Our class already won a pizza party in our Pennies for Patients fundraiser. The kids said they want to win again so they can donate the party to other children. They took it to another level, and I am so proud. They’ve gone from picking up pencils to coming up with ideas for enormous acts of kindness you just can’t plan.”
First-grade special education teacher Franci Minni said children in kindergarten through second grade track their kind deeds with a hearts chart.
“There are 100 hearts on each chart,” Minni said. “We first shaded the hearts, then decided a better way to recognize students would be for them to initial the hearts with their names to show they’ve been working hard. It’s going really well and has created a community.”
Ho said the initiative is working.
“The students are problem-solving more together and overall classroom culture has improved,” she said. “The initiative has led to an overall decrease in discipline referrals. There was a 26 percent decrease in disrespectful behavior referrals from September to December 2017 compared to September to December 2018.”
Ho said Milton Elementary also ranks highest on positive school climate and culture through Delaware Positive Behavior Support Project, a collaboration between Delaware Department of Education, University of Delaware Center for Disabilities Studies and Delaware public schools.
“Each act of kindness makes the world a better place,” Ho said.