Swampscott school kids learn a lesson in kindness

Third graders Max Battinelli (left), Victoria Pierro, Jane Raymond, Bogdan Lutic, Lila Schwartz and Sophia Zanni present their acts of kindness during a school-wide assembly to wrap up Hadley School's Great Kindness Challenge.
Principal Ilana Bebchick (left) listens to third graders (from left) Max Battinelli, Victoria Pierro, Jane Raymond, Bogdan Lutic, Lila Schwartz and Sophia Zanni present their acts of kindness during a school-wide assembly to wrap up Hadley School's Great Kindness Challenge. (Courtesy photo)

SWAMPSCOTT — Ella Douillette, a Hadley Elementary School second grader, knows helping is rewarding.

“If you are kind to someone, it makes them feel good,” she said. “It makes me feel real good because I’m being nice to someone.”

The 8-year-old joined her schoolmates in the Great Kindness Challenge at Hadley this week, which wrapped up on Thursday, when students presented their acts of kindness at an assembly.

For her acts, Douillette said she made a kindness poster. She also gave compliments to her classmates.

Fellow second grader Anna Kanders, 8, said she and her classmates praised their teachers and other staff.
“We want to give kindness to people so we can be happy as well,” Kanders said.

Hadley School principal Ilana Bebchick said the event,  presented by the nonprofit Kids for Peace, was done nationally in January, but the school held off until this month. Schools were challenged to perform as many acts of kindness as they could in one week.

Bebchick said Nell Donato, who serves as the district’s English Language Learner coordinator, discovered the challenge was happening nationwide and thought it was something Hadley could do.

She said school staff discussed the best way to join the effort, and every grade focused on a project, or some acts of kindness for the week.

“I think (the challenge was important) just to reinforce for our students the importance of being kind and thoughtful and then to draw awareness to the small things that we do to help others and make other people feel good,” Bebchick said. “Even small acts of kindness can make a difference.”

Bebchick said the grades did something different each day, which included the kindness posters the second graders made. She said the posters summarized what acts they had done each day of the week.

For example, one day, they wrote notes to their families thanking them. Another day, they made helping hands, which they shared. Bebchick said she came back to her office from a meeting this week to find her door covered in the hands.

Autumn Erikson, 8, another second grader, said her poster was comprised of thank you notes to her family, including her parents. She said being kind to other people makes them feel happy. She said people would feel sad and lonely if others weren’t kind to them.

Bebchick said kindergarteners distributed hearts to people. They also read stories from the Elmer series of books by David McKee, which focused on kindness. For the assembly, each kindergartener made an Elmer the Elephant puppet and all of the students from that grade walked across the stage for a kindness parade.

The third graders read a script during the assembly of all their different acts of kindness during the week. One day, they wrote a thank you letter to someone in their family. Another day was about thanking a classmate or student in another class.

Fourth graders gathered quotes on the topic of kindness and wrote them on a paper link to make a big paper chain. First grade students wrote kind notes to their classmates, Bebchick said.

As part of the challenge, students also made the school’s morning announcements, with students from each grade taking turns to read a kindness quote daily, Bebchick said.

“Every single day you can show kindness,” Bebchick said. “I think it’s a very important lesson that children learn because we are developing students academically, but we’re also helping to develop them socially and emotionally.”

Bebchick said she read a story to the kids during the assembly about how everyone has an invisible bucket and when someone does nice things, it gets filled. It also comes back to them, referring to how kindness is often reciprocated or how it makes the person feel good when they engage in kindness.

She also shared a related personal story about how she helped children who were part of a car crash on the side of her house on New Year’s Day. She said while everyone was fine, it was only 7 degrees out.

Bebchick offered to bring the children, a first and third grader, inside her house, which made her feel good. That kindness was reciprocated a few weeks later when she received a thank you note from the family.

The principal’s personal story was a hit with Kanders and Erikson, as they cited it as one of their favorite parts of the assembly.

“I’m really happy that we did this challenge,” said Bebchick. “It was a very positive experience for our students and our staff and it definitely brought us closer together as a community. I look forward to doing it again next year.”

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