2018-03-22 / News

Catholic school uses National Walkout Day to spread kindness

By Abigail Worthing Staff Writer

Estelle Beauchesne and her third grade class brainstorm a list of 17 acts of kindness they can do for others during St. James School’s remembrance activity. (Abigail Worthing photo) Estelle Beauchesne and her third grade class brainstorm a list of 17 acts of kindness they can do for others during St. James School’s remembrance activity. (Abigail Worthing photo) BIDDEFORD – While schools around the country participated in National Walkout Day on Wednesday March 14, St. James School chose to honor victims of the Parkland, Florida, High School shooting in a different way.

“I appreciate that older kids are practicing their civil duty and speaking out,” said SJS principal Nancy Naimey, “but we wanted to do something with the younger kids to focus on kindness.”

While originally planned to coincide with the rest of the nation on March 14, a snowstorm that cancelled school that day resulted in St. James School students to observe their “17 Minutes of Kindness” on March 15. At 10 a.m., all classrooms took 17 minutes out of class time to participate in age-appropriate activities to promote kindness within their student body.

“We have an advantage here, being a Catholic school. We believe that there is comfort in prayer and that prayer is powerful,” said Naimey, who has been the principal at St. James School for five years.

Every grade at St. James School took part in a group activity tailored to the age of the students. The younger grades had activities that were focused on being kind in their everyday life, both in school and at home. In Pre-Kindergarten, the students worked with art teacher Kathryn Theriault to paint kindness rocks, rocks that are painted and hidden by students to be found by community members with the intention of brightening their day, while Theriault lead them in a discussion of how they can help out at home and at school, asking questions about how they could help their parents, or how to be nice to their friends at school.

Kindergarten and second grade classes participated in guided meditations, prayers and songs, reflecting on themes of friendship and understanding. In Nancy Pierce’s first grade classroom, students were seated in a circle, talking about how to be kind. Pierce asked the children what they could do when they see someone who seems sad, to which a student replied that they could ask them to be their friend.

“Did you know, you could be the only one to ever ask them (to be their friend)?” Pierce said. “Let’s send out a blanket of prayer to those children.”

In Estelle Beauchesne’s third-grade classroom, students were asked to name 17 acts of kindness, coming up with suggestions like “be someone’s first friend to a new student” and “give up your time for someone else.”

The fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms worked together, pairing up students to work on a getting-to-know-you questionnaire.

“We tried to pair up students who we have never seen play together,” said fourth grade teacher Karen Belanger. “Some of these students have lots of friends, but some only have one, so if their friend is out sick, that student plays alone that day. They’re reaching an age where popularity is important and are starting to become clique-y. Hopefully this will show them how they are alike.”

The eighth grade classroom chose to have a more personal approach to kindness. Students were encouraged to write out 17 Post-It notes to 17 people within the school, with students choosing students, faculty and staff. They would later distribute the notes on to lockers and classroom doors to spread kindness throughout the school.

“It can be so easy to tear someone down,” said Emily Valentino, the middle school science and K-8 STREAM teacher who worked with eighth graders.

“It’s so important to work with them to make them kind children so that they will turn into kind adults who will know how to treat their own kids,” said Theriault.

Contact Staff Writer Abigail Worthing at news@inthecourier.com.

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