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The smile that traveled the world

Image: The Kindness Tree

The Kindness Tree

Image: KDES Kindergartener Hiruni Hewapathirana works on the message "Help Elders" to add to the for Kindness Tree. (Photo Heidi Zornes-Foster)

KDES Kindergartener Hiruni Hewapathirana works on the message "Help Elders" to add to the for Kindness Tree. (Photo Heidi Zornes-Foster)

Image: Today, I made waffles for my grandmother.

Today, I made waffles for my grandmother.

Smiling is infectious. Do something for others. Be kind. In their social skills class, led by school counselor Heidi Zornes-Foster, Kendall Demonstration Elementary School (KDES) kindergarteners, first, and second graders explored how they can practice acts of kindness in their everyday lives. They learned how one kind act, as simple as a smile, can spread happiness from one person to another and then to another. On one of the bulletin boards in the school's main corridor, Zornes-Foster created a large Kindness Tree with many empty branches. She discussed the meaning of kindness in class and asked each student to reflect on how he or she helps others. Each student created a flower for the tree to illustrate in pictures and words their act of thoughtfulness.

"February is a traditional month-because of Valentine's Day-for thinking of ways to show love and appreciation to others. I wanted our students to start from that holiday and broaden out to realize practicing random acts of kindness can happen anytime and anywhere," said Zornes-Foster. "I wanted them to realize what they do for others already and find ways to do even more."

When the flowers were ready, the students, their classroom teachers, and Zornes-Foster met in the hallway and sat in a semi-circle in front of the tree. One by one each student stood before the group to describe their flower and then pinned it on the tree.

Here are some of their flower messages:

  • "I help my mom open the door."
  • "My dad cooks dinner for me (pasta) and I say thank you."
  • "We have a BBQ and share the food and enjoy each other's company."
  • "I helped a person in a wheelchair."
  • "Today I made waffles for my grandmother."
  • "I help my sister with putting toothpaste on her toothbrush."
  • "I help parents with laundry."
  • "I help my brother up on his bed."

On the tree, Zornes-Foster also posted some thoughts on smiling written by an unknown author:

"Smiling is infectious; you catch it like the flu.
When someone smiled at me today, I started smiling, too.
I passed around a corner and someone saw my grin.
When she smiled, I realized I had passed it on to him.
I thought about that smile and then I realized its worth.
A single smile, just like mine, could travel around the earth."