Students at Columbia River Gorge Elementary School shine a spotlight on positive behavior
WASHOUGAL — Inspiration is all around Columbia River Gorge Elementary School, and a single kind act has grown into a school-wide Kindness Project to shine a spotlight on positive behavior.
“This all began with creation of a holiday giving tree at the school to help a few local families,” said Christa Kornoski, CRGE Booster. “It was tagged with 30 gift requests that our school community would volunteer to purchase. The tags were depleted in two days so we added more families and, by the end, had a total of 74 gift requests. Every one of them were fulfilled! This tree demonstrated to students what a caring, giving, and supportive community we have here.”
With the success of the giving tree, the Boosters began thinking about ways to extended kindness beyond holiday giving and create something that could involve every child.
“We began looking at ways of organizing and recognizing random acts of kindness,” Kornoski explained. “A sample calendar featuring daily kind acts was brought to us by fellow Booster Laura Kelly and we loved the idea.” The group brainstormed simple things students could do at school or at home to develop three calendars; one for young children, one for older and one that is a combination.
“This is when we heard that two 5th grade girls, Grace Hack and Bella Bradford, were also working on creating a kindness initiative,” Kornoski said. “So, we integrated their ideas and energy with ours. They created the calendar for the 4th and 5th graders. We felt that this idea would be more influential coming from peers rather than parents at the upper elementary grades.”
Suggested items on the calendar include writing a thank you note to your bus driver, sitting with someone new at lunch and cleaning out your parent’s car.
The next step in the project was recognizing the kindness students were showing. This is where Steve the Snowman came in.
“Steve is a life-size paper snowman on the hallway wall at CRGE,” Kornoski explained. “Each act of kindness a student shows can be written on a snowball tag and attached to him for all to see. The goal is to have Steve completely covered with snowballs.”
And it is working. The month-long CRGE Kindness Project began November 25 and continued until the start of Winter Break and Steve is so filled with tags of good deeds that a new Sally the Snowman has been added. Each tag lists the student, their teacher, their kind action and can be written by the student themselves or by a teacher or student who witnessed someone doing something nice. A random tag is picked each morning to be read during the school news broadcast.
“The classroom with the most acts of kindness will be interviewed by the school’s morning news on why kindness is so important to them,”’ Kornoski said. “We decided it was best to reinforce this behavior by recognition rather than rewards or prizes.”
The plan is to continue after winter break with a Kindness Leadership Club that will meet once a month with a spring event before the end of school. “We want to encourage kindness as something that will be in students’ thoughts throughout the year,” Kornoski said. Her hope is that they will take this momentum with them into middle school.
Preparing for middle school is on the minds of Hack and Bradford and they feel this club will help ease that transition by reminding students about the importance of kindness. “There can be a lot of unkind things that go on in middle school,” Hack said. “This club will help students understand the importance of being kind and inspire them to do their best to treat people nice.”
“We also hope our efforts will grow to the point that we could qualify for a grant to implement a large community project,” said Bradford.
“One of our goals is to change the narrative to focus on the positive things people do rather than the negative behaviors,” Kornoski said. “We want these students to understand that one kind act can make a significant difference in a person’s life.”
Information courtesy of Washougal School District.