Vista de Las Cruces School in Gaviota commemorated kindness last week with five days of lessons.
Principal and Superintendent Lois Peterson opened each day with a school-wide video chat.
Last week, she used this time to encourage students as they learned about kindness at the elementary school, which encompasses the Vista Del Mar Union School District.
It’s not any coincidence that she chose last week. It’s part of a worldwide initiative called the Great Kindness Challenge, which equips schools with steps to create a kinder classroom.
As part of the week, each class completed projects to share with one another. Teacher Caroline Esdaile’s fifth-grade class created presentations highlighting charities.
“I think it is always good to remind them that they are fortunate and that there are those that are less fortunate than they are,” Dr. Peterson told the News-Press.
The students picked organizations that resonated with them. Fifth-grader Nathanael Jones researched the International Rescue Committee, a global humanitarian aid organization.
“I picked the charity because I’ve seen refugees before, and it’s pretty sad to see them without food or shelter,” he said.
The slideshow that he presented to the class first acknowledges the International Rescue Committee’s reliability and five-star reputation, showing the practical side of his selection.
But Nathanael also saw the need for blankets and other survival needs, and he likes that the organization serves poor communities.
“This may not be the most fun charity to donate to, but it is one of the ones that need help the most,” he wrote on his last slide.
“I think kindness is important because everybody deserves a chance to have a good life, in California or wherever,” Nathanael said.
His classmate Jacob Nungarary had similar sentiments when choosing Share Our Strength, a national organization devoted to ending childhood hunger.
“I chose it because when I went to Mexico about a year ago, I saw a lot of people struggling with hunger and money, and I wanted to help them,” he said.
Dr. Peterson and the school’s volunteer organization, Vista Volunteers, are making a donation to Share Our Strength.
“No child deserves to grow up hungry in America, but 1 in 7 children in the U.S. live with hunger,” Jacob wrote in his presentation.
The following charities were also represented: Wyatt Holsted presented about Friendship Paddle; Zane Mathis researched Make A Wish Foundation; Jacob Herrera chose KaBOOM; Jack Cota studied Heifer International Charity, and Gwen Bonham learned about Ronald McDonald House.
“It gave me tears because when I asked why they chose that particular charity, they all had a personal reason,” Dr. Peterson said. “I was impressed with the research, the writing, and most importantly, the kindness behind it.”
Ms. Esdaile made a donation to each charity. She does a similar project annually where students choose an endangered species to present about, and her fourth-grade class is currently working on that as an extension of kindness week.
Other students painted rocks and gifted them to neighbors and loved ones. Second-grade student Emily Rodriguez wanted to write a thank-you letter to the mail carrier, and colored a picture to go along with her note.
The week started off with a lesson on being kind to oneself. Tuesday, the focus expanded to care for neighbors as well. Wednesday represented family, and Thursday was charity day.
Friday was a day dedicated to the community within the school. Students wore their school T-shirts for the Zoom call to show off their school spirit.
Students made links to mail to the Great Kindness Challenge because the organization makes a chain of the participants’ links every year.
Then Dr. Peterson and teachers presented each student with an adjective to describe them, complimenting the students with words such as “witty,” “inquisitive” and “artistic.”
“I think they were surprised, touched, and it motivated them to make them feel good about themselves,” Dr. Peterson said.
She wanted the students to receive kindness during the pandemic especially, but she was glad to see them care for others in return.