We have visited so many INCREDIBLE schools this semester. But, one particularly stands out, which is why we selected the tiny Kohler Elementary School in Wisconsin as our March school of the month. Their army of 300 students completed 15,214 acts of kindness in 15 days. YES.
Here’s a word from Miguel, who kicked off their Kindness Challenge!
When it comes to the Kohler Blue Bombers I think of two famous sayings. The first one is – The numbers don’t lie! 15,214 acts of kindness in 15 days! The second saying is Tiny but Mighty an Elementary school with just over 300 students from grades k-5 who currently hold the title of the kindest school in America.
The elementary school totally lived up to the hype as a school that’s known for excellence; who year after year rank number one in test scores in the entire state of Wisconsin.
These students deserve the recognition as Think Kindness’s school of month. Not only for completing the challenge but the action they took in creating a culture of kindness that started in the school and then seeped into the community. We heard stories about students raising money for the local children’s hospital, hurricane relief penny wars, socktober, and Project Gratitude to name a few. This entire town rallied together as one big unit starting with the Kohler company who helped sponsor the assembly, the parents who put hearts with “be kind” in their windows, the teachers who helped the students stay focused, and last but not least the incredible administrative staff that believed in their students well before the challenge and assembly took place. A true team effort. I’m grateful that I had he opportunity to come and be a part of the amazing things this school has been able to accomplish and continues to do. Congratulations Kohler Elementary, you deserve it!
We asked Kohler’s principal, Lisa Greene about kindness and her school.
Q: Why is it important to you and your school to instill kindness in today’s culture?
A: The students at Kohler Schools have always been very generous and have participated in dozens of charity donations and “Greater Good” causes, but I wanted to start to focus on the everyday small acts of kindness that give us a sense of well-being and self-worth. I wanted the children to learn that although the large grand gestures are wonderful, it is the small acts of kindness that we do everyday that make up who we are. Treating others with respect and feeling valued and appreciated are necessary to build a successful learning community and eradicate unkind acts that lead to bullying
Q: Why did you bring Think Kindness to Kohler?
A: We wanted a school culture, where kindness is the norm, and we knew to accomplish this we would have to put a lot of effort into intentionally teaching kind behaviors. I started to research our next steps. Through my search, I was led to Think Kindness, and knew immediately, this was our next step. We wanted something that was more than a “one and done.” We knew we needed something that we could use to kick off a huge wave and give us enough energy to maintain the movement. We also signed up for the Kindness Crew so that we could continue our kindness momentum throughout the year beyond the 15 day challenge.
Q: What project or activities do your teachers do to create a more positive school culture?
A: We started last year with a big mindfulness movement. The staff went through an extensive Professional Development series to bring mindfulness strategies to our students in the classroom.
We saw great results with the children and began to intentionally teach concepts that would address the social-emotional learning of our students. Each month, we kick off our focus at an all school assembly. With the teachers to guide them, the students work on the focus throughout the month. We started with gratitude and moved on to empathy, compassion, generosity and respect.
Q: We challenged your school to do the kindness challenge. What types of kind deeds did you see take place in your school?
A: We saw so many wonderful kind acts, 15, 214 of them in fact! In the first few days of the challenge, there was a lot of picking up things off the floor, sharing of crayons and markers and holding doors open for people. As the challenge went on, the acts became a little more thoughtful and intentional in nature. The acts started to take place at home as well as in school. Students were starting to help with household chores without being asked and help with younger siblings. Grandmas and Grandpas received phone calls to say hello. And after a particularly large snowfall, there was a lot of snow shoveling for neighbors! The children started seeing how being kind made them feel and they developed a desire to do even more which led to our successful 15, 214 documented acts of kindness!
Q: What awesome things did you see your teachers and/or students do to take this challenge to a whole new level.
A: So, I made a small typo in communicating to the staff about the 15 day Kindness Challenge of 5,000 acts of kindness in 15 days. I accidentally put 15, 000 acts of Kindness in 15 days. Oops!! When we discovered the error, we figured that with 327 students, that was about 3 acts a day, per child. With our already established positive focus, this seemed do-able to us, so we went with it! With such a ridiculously high goal, it took serious focus for us to teach the children what a kind act was and then to document it in the Kindness Journals. It was especially hard for the little ones. When they were asked each day what they did that was kind, most of them could not tell you. The teachers started pointing out things as they went through their day. “You let Adam go first. That was kind of you” or “You shared your snack. That was kind of you.” By constantly pointing out the kindness we were seeing, the children started to learn what kindness looked like and felt like. The students then started to point out the kindness that they were seeing in each other and began to help each other with their kindness journals. The whole school had to pull together to support each other for us to hit our goal.
Q: What kind of responses have you received from parents or community?
A: The parent response was amazing! One parent started a movement on facebook and asked all the families to put red hearts on their front doors and windows to encourage the children in their Kindness Challenge. Suddenly red hearts with the words “Be Kind” were popping up everywhere in the Village of Kohler.
Q: What suggestions would you have to another school taking part in the campaign to help ensure it is a ‘home run’?
A: The error of 15,000 was a great mistake and turned out to be a huge advantage to us! It was that stretch goal that helped us keep the focus on kindness throughout the day. I would recommend taking the number of students you have and expecting at least 2 acts of kindness each day from each student and making that your goal. It would have been a missed opportunity for us to use 5,000 acts as a goal when clearly the children could do so much more. Our little school of 327 students accomplished a great thing. We made the world just a little bit kinder!
Q: Anything else you would like to share?
A: The Kohler Elementary Staff is very excited to keep our momentum going. Our Kindness Crew will lead the way to many more acts of kindness. We have only just begun!