2 Kings pilot programs: Kindness can prevent bullying

Kings Local School District elementary school students recently spent time building connections with one another through a series of activities designed to promote kindness and end bullying, like human bingo and “we have things in common” scavenger hunt. CONTRIBUTED
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Kings Local School District elementary school students recently spent time building connections with one another through a series of activities designed to promote kindness and end bullying, like human bingo and “we have things in common” scavenger hunt. CONTRIBUTED

Making connections prevents kids from feeling isolated.

The Kings Local School District recently piloted two initiatives aimed at building connectedness and kindness.

Students at South Lebanon Elementary and Kings Mills Elementary participated in “Start with Hello” week, a Sandy Hook Promise program to raise awareness of social isolation and empower youth to create a culture of inclusion and connectedness.

J.F. Burns Elementary and Columbia Intermediate students completed the “Great Kindness Challenge,” a bullying prevention initiative devoted to performing as many acts of kindness as possible.

“Bullying feeds off a wider peer culture that promotes or even just permits disrespect and unkind behavior. The solution to protecting kids from bullying is to promote a school culture of kindness, respect and inclusion,” said Keri Perdix, KME guidance counselor. “We firmly believe that kindness is a skill that can be taught. As school counselors, we are in a unique position to teach that skill. Each of our buildings uses a multi-faceted approach to making this happen.”

Research indicates young children who are isolated can become victims of bullying, violence or depression.

Sandy Hook Promise was formed shortly after the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., where 20 first graders and six adults were killed. The nonprofit develops and provides programs and practices aimed at protecting children from gun violence.

At KME and SLE, the counselors arranged lunchtime and recess activities to encourage building connections among the students, like human bingo, mix it up at lunch, a “we have things in common” scavenger hunt, locker signs and card-making for high school students.

“The activities throughout the week were really to get kids to connect with others they maybe wouldn’t have otherwise,” explained SLE guidance counselor Susie Burdine. It “can be a real challenge to get them to step outside their comfort zones — it ended up being a great week.”

At JFB and CIS, students were encouraged to create a culture of kindness by completing numerous challenges.

Students at Columbia Intermediate were spreading kindness with signs and a decorated showcase. One class baked cupcakes and delivered handwritten letters of appreciation to teachers and staff.

The students at J.F. Burns participated in lessons taught by counselor Emily Sander. Kings High School students presented lessons on kindness to the second grade classes, and band members performed for the first grade and wrote letters to sick children at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Counselors from the four school buildings will meet to evaluate successes and discuss how to continue efforts in the schools, Burdine said.

Contact this contributing writer at lisa.knodel@gmail.com.