This past spring, a group of 50 sixth grade students at Mann Middle School in Lakewood, WA, created projects that spread kindness throughout their community. Mann Middle School is a military impacted school located just outside the gates of Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). Each year, students and teachers alike experience a high student turnover as military families move in and out of the area. The project’s sixth grade leaders sought to make a positive and lasting impact on this community, all while learning about civic engagement and citizenship.
The project began when RP/6’s Frontline Families AmeriCorps members, Angela Collins and Katie Bianco, were invited to Mann Middle School. The Frontline Families program helps transitioning service members, veterans, and their families create, design, and implement their own service projects to assist with their transition to the civilian community. Ms. Collins and Ms. Bianco were looking for opportunities to uplift the community near JBLM, and administrators at the school warmly welcomed the opportunity.
A sixth grade social studies teacher, Mrs. Nokes, was particularly excited to get her students involved. Ms. Collins and Ms. Bianco partnered with Mrs. Nokes to teach her students lessons about social responsibility and community service. Throughout the lessons, students learned how to conduct a community needs assessment, define project goals and ways of achieving those goals, design the components of a community service project, and recruit and recognize project volunteers.
While brainstorming ideas for their project’s goals, the students all decided to focus on making Mann Middle School a kinder place. They quickly got to work and designed three different projects, all of which were successfully completed.
First, the students made a large poster that asked, “How can you make MMS a kinder place?” The poster was hung near the cafeteria, where every student in the school could participate by writing down their own thoughts. Students shared diverse and wonderful ideas, from “I will say hi to everyone I see,” and “I will follow the rules,” to “I will respect everyone with my heart and help everyone who is having a hard time.”
Second, the students created a school-wide kindness competition. They made Bingo cards in which each square contained a random act of kindness that could be completed throughout the school day. The students came up with the random acts of kindness, including “clean up after yourself,” “thank an adult at school for something they do,” “cheer someone up with a funny joke,” “share a smile,” and “sit with someone new at lunch”.
The students’ third project was their Appreciation Station. Each Thursday, with the support of RP/6 volunteers, a table was set up during each lunch period. At the table, students had the opportunity to write anonymous Kindness Cards to fellow students, staff, and faculty at Mann Middle School. The adult volunteers then sorted the notes and, with the generous support of staff and faculty, they were delivered. By the end of the project, students had written more than 1,300 anonymous notes of kindness to members of their school community.
Mrs. Nokes’ sixth grade students went above and beyond, and faculty, staff, and administrators alike shared positive comments about the great impact that their projects had on the school’s environment. But, as these sixth graders would say, it’s not hard to “throw kindness around like confetti”!