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New program teaches kids importance of thoughtfulness by helping community

Story: Katelyn Lee, Staff Writer

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“Kindness changes the brain by the experience of kindness. Children and adolescents do not learn kindness by only thinking about it and talking about it. Kindness is best learned by feeling it so that they can reproduce it,” said Patty O’Grady, an expert in neuroscience, emotional learning, positive psychology and an education specialist.
When Jewell Muller-Gornick, counselor at Wilkshire Early Childhood Center, read an article about kindness reducing bullying in schools, this quote resonated with her.
With the hopes of implementing kindness in Wilkshire, she contacted her colleagues, interventionist Jill Batten and principal Gail Hicks, to get their thoughts on the idea. They sat down and came to the conclusion that a kindness program is exactly what was needed.
The Wilkshire co-workers made a plan to create a program that not only teaches kindness but works on implementing it in the daily lives of the students. They thought that implementing kindness into the children and staffs’ schedules would result in them becoming more likely to be kind on a daily basis.
The kindness program has been in the making for a few years now. The idea came from a group of teachers who believe that changing the world starts with kids. Instill the idea of kindness into them from the beginning and they will grow up to make the world a better place.
The kindness program is made up of teachers who are passionate about making a change and seeing that kindness in kids today such as Muller-Gornick, Hicks and Batten. They have done and will continue to do random acts of kindness. One of their most recent acts of kindness was “bus driver appreciation day” where all of the bus drivers were brought to Wilkshire for the students and staff to thank them for all they have done. The students of the Wilkshire Early Development Program have even gone to the local retirement home, read books and sang songs to the elderly.
“We have several more events planned this year, including trips to the Meridian Township police and fire departments, local preschools to read to the children, as well as possibly leading tour groups through our amazing courtyard this spring.” Muller-Gornick said. “Our goal is to give our students the opportunity to experience and share kindness by purposely teaching it.”
According to Muller-Gornick such acts of kindness give the young minds insight into what it truly means to be kind and to have compassion.
Being kind doesn’t just help others, it helps individuals in many ways. There are a number of physical and mental health benefits that can be achieved by being kind. Altruistic actions trigger a release of the hormone oxytocin, which can significantly increase a person’s level of happiness and reduce stress levels. Oxytocin also protects the heart by lowering blood pressure and reducing free radicals and inflammation, which incidentally speed up the aging process.
Kindness is a key ingredient that enhances positivity and helps children feel good about themselves as it increases serotonin levels. This important chemical affects learning, memory, mood, sleep, health, and digestion.
The kindness program got its funding for extras such as bus transportation, art supplies, snacks, gardening supplies, etc. from a $500 grant from the 100 Women For Haslett, one of the many fundraising groups for the Foundation for Haslett Public Schools to help make the dream of the kindness program a reality.
The outpouring of positive comments about the startup of the program have been outstanding. Many believe this is the way to change the future of the world. With all of the hate, destruction, and violence going on all around the world the future doesn’t look so bright.
With a program like this one it gives people a glimmer of hope that the future will be different than our present.

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New program teaches kids importance of thoughtfulness by helping community