Thursday, February 10, 2011

Teaching Kindness through the Goodness Gorillas

    How important is it for children to learn kindness? Well, I would consider that to be one of the most important things to teach kids. They don't come with automatic kindness built in, so it's up to parents and teachers to help them learn how it feels to put someone else first.
    My school has always been concerned with finding ways to help others, both in the school and out. We started children's book drives in 2000 in which parents and kids brought in new and used children's books, packed them up in grade level boxes, and delivered them to different schools in Detroit. Over the years we collected over 30,000 books and encouraged other schools in our district to collect another 40,000.
     In the fall of 2001, we decided to hold a Penny Challenge to raise money for the Red Cross. We, as one small elementary school(size about 500 kids), in a middle class suburban area, raised $5000!!!  We have held a Penny Challenge every year since then with the money going to The Salvation Army, Leukemia Society, St. Jude, Leader Dogs for the Blind, and many other organizations. We have raised nearly $30,000 even though our Michigan economy has been in the tank for many of those years. We have a climate of helping others.

this year the penny challenge is going on right now :)

every morning kids count money from each classroom's jar
      In 2002 we started the Goodness Gorillas, a club composed of every student in the school, dedicated to the idea of helping others in any way possible including just through random acts of kindness. A parent gave me this book and a plate of cupcakes for no reason, and after reading the book we began our Goodness Gorillas, which continues today:
perfect book for encouraging kindness
     Even though the Penny Challenge is usually our biggest and favorite event each year, it is definitely not all that we do. We take part in Toys for Tots, canned food drives, give stuffed animals to hospitals, donate clothing to a domestic abuse shelter, do mitten trees and spaghetti dinners. We bought 500 pounds of beans and had the students divide them into one quart bags to deliver to a neighboring soup kitchen.We often do Jump Rope for Heart and have done a 3 mile walk in the neighborhood to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society for many years. 
    Does it matter what you do??  No, but the kids should know what it's about and how they are helping others...get them involved in choosing the activity and in working on it.  One year we donated 75 wheelchairs to children in other countries  through the Wheelchair Foundation as a Christmas fundraiser. We received individual packets from the Foundation with pictures of each child in the wheelchair that he received....choked up quite a few people. We have collected diapers for a pregnancy center,  made a Twin Towers of toilet paper to give to a rescue mission, and donated 500 new and used towels to a shelter.
     After Hurricane Katrina, we collected 450 new backpacks and filled them with school supplies and hygiene items. Chad and I filled a trailer and the back of our SUV with the backpacks and 1000 books and drove them to a school in New Orleans. What an amazing see the looks on the faces of those children! We took bunches of pictures that we shared with our school later.
    We have Spirit Weeks if a family of a student or staff member is in special need. The kids bring in money for wearing a hat on Monday, bringing in pop ( a northern term!) on Tuesday, having a snack on Wednesday, wearing shades on Thursday, and having an extra recess on Friday. It is an easy way to collect a bit of money to make someone's life a little easier.

this is our Goodness Gorilla trophy case
     One school trying to make a difference - CAN!!!  One family trying to make a difference - CAN!!!   One individual trying to make a difference - CAN!!!

See if you can find a way to help your children make a difference; they will become better people because of it :)

Happy Parenting!
D and C


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