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Sandy Journal

South Jordan students may be putting kindness lessons into practice during coronavirus pandemic

May 11, 2020 01:07PM ● By Julie Slama

A kindness chain encircles Elk Meadows student leaders before they put it up in the hallways to celebrate kindness week. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

“We want students to be kinder at school, at home, in their community,” Elk Meadows sixth grade teacher Becky Pratt said. “We don’t need to judge people; we want our students to reach out in kindness to build our community, nation and world.”

Pratt, who advises student council along with fifth grade teacher Rebecca Mortimer, said during Elk Meadows’ kindness week, one filled with fun and color, not realizing the message may be one that students could be putting in practice during the soft closure of schools during the coronavirus pandemic.

Being kind was also a message shared at South Jordan Middle School weeks before the school closure, said eighth grader Grace Irion.

“Kindness makes everyone feel loved,” she said. “We need more positivity everywhere. We need to help one another.”

The two South Jordan schools had their kindness weeks in February, holding activities and events for their respective schools.

At Elk Meadows, the week started off with an assembly planned by the student leaders — and some additional students who wanted to help. They wanted to “start a kindness chain reaction,” which included each time students or staff members performed an act of kindness, they wrote it on a slip of paper. Then, the student leaders created links, more than 4,000 of them by their spirit week’s halfway point, which circled the school hallways. 

“I’ve watched kids intentionally say kind words, do acts of kindness and show respect,” Assistant Principal Baylee Lansford said. “They’re starting a chain reaction by their own actions.”

Pratt agrees. 

“It’s incredible to watch students perform kind acts through this positive activity,” she said. “It has brought our whole school together as a team. It’s really powerful.”

But it wasn’t just the adults that felt the change in the school community.

Sixth grader Mia Gardner, who helped with the kindness week, said she witnessed students supporting each other.

“Everyone is doing kind things, helping one another,” she said. “It’s good that we’re being positive, always being kind.” 

Sixth grader Brayden Hansen said he had seen a student helping another with math and heard of classmates offering to help their parents more at home.

“Kids are being nicer and kinder,” he said. “We’re being more thoughtful, and that’s good.” 

Student leaders added in spirit days and the theme “donut forget to be a friend and sprinkle kindness every day,” and sharing donuts with sprinkles. They provided daily inspirational quotes to their classmates, such as “Kindness costs nothing, but it means everything” and “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” They also invited motivational speaker Hank Smith to remind students about friendship — by being an “upstander not a bystander” if they see bullying or someone treating another unfairly. 

At nearby South Jordan Middle School, student leaders also created fun activities for students during lunches, such as a watching “Ratatouille,” playing Minute-to-Win-It games and line dancing, which included participation by faculty and administrators, including principal Nicole Johnson in high heels. Lockers also were heart attacked, a kindness banner contest was held, and a display case was decorated to remind students to be kind.

Ninth grader Meg Haycock said the theme, “You Make it Great,” was decided upon to provide a positive message.

“We wanted everyone to have a good attitude, and we let them know they make the school great,” she said. “We put hearts with messages on the lockers and in the hall and came up with fun ways for everyone to be involved. We want everyone to feel loved, to be positive and kind. We don’t want anyone here to feel alone.”

That meant student leaders sought out others, eating with them if they spotted someone alone, or inviting them to get involved in the week’s activities.

“We want to make connections with everyone,” Meg said.

Grace, who also serves as a student body officer with Meg, said the idea is to have fun and show kindness to everyone.

“We don’t want anyone to be afraid or embarrassed but just to get up and have fun,” she said. “Everyone is welcome and accepted. It’s the way we want our school to be.”

That’s how Mia at Elk Meadows feels. 

“I’m proud of myself when I’m kind and doing things with everyone; it’s more fun at our school,” she said. “I hope that kids will still be doing it even after our kindness week is over. It’s something we all should be doing everywhere, every day.”