It started with a ride on a Mahopac bike path. John F. Kennedy Elementary School teacher Gabriele Lappe noticed something bright off to the side and stopped to take a closer look. What she found was a kindness rock: a small painted rock with an inspiring message on it.
“I loved that you can’t help but smile when you see them,” Lappe said. She decided to make some with her morning class. From there, the idea quickly spread throughout the district.
A coordinator from the middle school reached out and Lappe’s second graders taught middle school students how to make kindness rocks. Second graders taught the older kids to first draw on the rocks, then write a message, then paint them. The younger students also showed their older peers a few websites about kindness rocks and kindness quotes, in case they needed additional inspiration.
The middle school students took all of that information and created a PowerPoint presentation to teach students at CV Starr how to make their own kindness rocks. Later, second graders taught the high schoolers how to do it.
While spreading kindness throughout the school district is an admirable feat, the second graders have even bigger ambitions. “This year, the second-grade goal is to reach out into the community and spread kindness,” Lappe said. The idea connects with their social studies lessons about communities as well as the district’s Strategic Coherence Plan goals of promoting communication skills and civic responsibility.
To get started, teachers Lynn Olsen and Debra Gorey reached out to Megan Murphy, founder of the Kindness Rocks Project. They were able to set up a video chat session with Murphy and their classes.
“We were impressed with the questions the kids asked and the way they considered what she had to say,” Olsen said. “They learned a great deal because they were thoughtful.”
Gorey agreed, saying, “They really listened to all of the answers.”
After speaking to Murphy, students are now planning how they can get their kindness rocks out to the wider community. Students chose places where they wanted to leave kindness rocks. They then had to decide whether they would write or speak to someone there and had to give their teachers and classmates a rationale for their plan.
“I gave a kindness rock to a guy named Joe who works at the videogame store,” one student said. Another student added that “There are a lot of people shopping at stores and restaurants. We want to put them in those places so everyone can see them.”
One thing is for sure: these second graders are serious about spreading kindness. As one student said, “If you help someone, it can spread everywhere around the world.”