Determined to spread kindness across a campus, Willow Springs Elementary School students designed T-shirts and heritage dolls and buddied up to talk about character traits.

In the end, school counselor Michele West expects the school to be “No Place for Hate.”

Completing three projects a year aimed at spreading kindness and battling bullying is part of the criteria to earn the Anti-Defamation League status of No Place for Hate and the banner that goes with it.

In the final activity, completed the week of Feb. 12-16, students discussed a book called “Say Something” and cut out figures decorated with words like courage, honesty and wisdom.

“You should report what you see and hear,” West said, repeating what students suggested during a character assembly. “Making fun of others is bullying and harassment and that is a no-go for Willow Springs.”

During their session, third-graders cutout paper figures of children and teacher Serena Wright joined in to make one of her own.

“I think it’s great for kids,” she said of the emphasis on kindness and standing up to bullying. “This is a way to speak out against it.”

On Feb. 16, fourth- and fifth-graders buddied up with prekindergarten and kindergarten students to work on cutout figures decorated with words bearing the character traits needed to stand up to bullies.

The Willow Springs counselor has been part of three other Killeen Independent School District elementary schools that earned the No Place for Hate designation.

“It creates awareness to get kids to understand they have a voice,” West said. “They need to report what they see.”

Bullies negatively impact children, she said. “School is a safe place. Children don’t need to be torn down because of their hair style or the clothes they wear.”

Bringing attention to the problem and pointing out solutions creates “up-standers,” those who report the issues they see instead of being merely bystanders, watching without taking action.

“Students come and say ‘I need to talk to you,’” the counselor said. “It becomes more common for them to talk. They are empowered to be that voice.”

Across the cafeteria, older students paired with younger ones to work together on the character-centered art project.

“Some people get bullied at school and some laugh at people,” said fourth-grader Bre-anna Alexander, a student council representative. “Activities like this help them to tell what they see.”

Kindness, she said, is important at school because children need friends to feel safe and accepted.

“We should do this more often,” Alexander said of the connection between older and younger students. “It helps little kids learn to cut and write and to say the words.

“They will remember that someone helped them.”

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