It can be as simple as a smile, a wave, a thoughtful deed or thank you note.
It doesn’t take much effort to be nice, as South Pasadena elementary schools last week focused on the simple act of kindness. Marengo, Arroyo Vista and Monterey Hills school students learned that love conquers hate.
For the second straight year, Marengo took part in the Great Kindness Challenge, joining Arroyo Vista, participating for the first time.
Patricia Cheadle, the principal at Marengo, hopes the five-day exercise “will encourage all of us to be intentional and caring when interacting with others,” she said. “Kindness is often taken for granted, however it has an immense impact on student and staff morale and interpersonal connections.”
The Great Kindness Challenge at Marengo, spearheaded by teacher Holly Lang and counselor Kathryn Hutto, saw students perform acts of kindness throughout the week, culminating with the entire school forming a giant heart in rainbow colors on the campus playground. High above it all was former PTA President Saida Staudenmaier, who snapped a group photo.
“I think most people want a considerate culture,” said Hutto. “Kindness cultivates peace and cooperation. It promotes respect, the freedom to be authentic, and creates a safe environment for working, learning, and living. Kindness softens life’s rough edges…everyone is going through something in life, right? The creation of an environment focused on care and thoughtfulness is a really lovely place to reside.”
More than 100 countries and 20,000 schools nationwide participated in this year’s Great Kindness Challenge.
Marengo launched the week with students reading the school’s signature book, “How to be a Lion,” In it, Leonard the Lion, learns he does not have to be fierce while discovering great friendships as he practices warmth and, yes, kindness. Fittingly, a lion is Marengo’s mascot.
As part of the daily activities, over the loud speakers, community members read quotes depicting kindness each morning. In addition, a paper chain, inscribing individual acts of kindness, was strung between classrooms.
Students, wearing “Kindness Rocks” stickers, completed weeklong activity sheets and one day lined the entrance of Garfield Park in the city with painted rocks with kindness messages.
“So many of the acts were simple gestures of politeness, a kind word, thinking of someone else before themselves,” explained Hutto. “We are learning kindness is really about consideration of others. Simple acts of courtesy can shift a culture.”
Marengo plans to use the grant money it received for the project from the South Pasadena Chinese American Club to purchase books focused on kindness that will be placed in the Marengo library. “These books represent diverse cultures and remind students that kindness crosses every culture and ethnicity,” said Hutto. “Kindness is something we all need to be reminded of practicing more frequently and more generously. None of us are above learning how to be kinder.”