What began as a simple project to teach kindness to children blossomed into a day of gift-giving and bridge-building at Fowler Elementary School.

It was World Kindness Day on Nov. 13 and students and staff members across the school felt the love with donated books for students and the precious gift of time for teachers.

Last year, Principal Donna Hardy said, the school counselors planned a project to teach kindness to students. With the onset of COVID-19 and the early closure of school, those plans drifted away.

With World Kindness Day on the calendar, the project rejuvenated, gained steam and grew into more than the original planners could have managed.

While everyone benefited from the day of kindness, the focus turned to teachers, Hardy said, acknowledging the mountain of work instructors have assumed to transform their work this year to teach on multiple platforms.

“I think this will become a yearly activity,” Hardy said. “Everyone is on board.”

Throughout the school day, students made their way to the rear of the school building where soldiers worked to place 800 painted rocks in a garden and built a bridge from the parking lot to the fresh space.

It took three weeks for students and staff members to paint the donated rocks. Many students also wrote letters and drew pictures for delivery to local retirement center residents.

The intention of the garden, counselor Kathy Phillips said, is for students and staff members to use the rock garden as a quiet place for peaceful reflection. The school’s Buddy Bench sits in the new space.

During the day, groups of students spent a half-hour inspecting the garden, then playing games with campus administrators and paraprofessionals supervising as teachers used the time to relax.

When teachers picked up their students, they were surprised with flowers made from their students’ handprints. Donors provided a variety of gifts for staff members, including gift cards and a face covering.

Vendors provided coffee, breakfast and goodies. Food trucks parked across the street to provide lunch.

“We wanted to focus on doing kind things with our students,” Phillips said. “The other part is we wanted to show our staff that they are important and valued, that they matter.”

“It’s awesome,” said third-grade teacher Freda Washington as she and colleague Jennifer Jeffers picked up their food from a truck. “It’s a good idea. We appreciate what the administration does for us.”

Showing kindness, said Jeffers, is an important life skill for students and they benefit from seeing it modeled. “We received a full 30 minutes of time,” the grateful teacher said. “Yes, it’s meaningful. One minute is meaningful.”

“Kindness is when you are being nice to somebody and you care about somebody,” said third-grader Amelia Ellison. “It’s helping others, especially those who really need it.”

“Kindness makes someone feel better,” said third-grader Kingston Tripeuax. “You can change someone’s day by being good to someone and that can change your day, too. Kindness is peace.”

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