Tacoma school creating culture of kindness with Rachel's Challenge

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by MIMI JUNG / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on April 20, 2011 at 2:33 PM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 20 at 8:00 PM

TACOMA, Wash. -- It's no surprise that bullying, teasing and name-calling starts at an early age, which is why kids as young as five years old are being introduced to Rachel's story.

An elementary school in Tacoma took on Rachel's Challenge last year and it appears the message of kindness is making a difference.

If you want to learn about compassion and kindness, just walk down the halls of Browns Point Elementary and look up.

There’s a colorful paper chain that stretches hundreds of feet, each link representing an act of kindness witnessed by another student. Some of the messages include “Anna gave me her snack when she didn't have another,”  “Zack picked up the chair,”  “Olivia shared her stuff” and “Kendall for letting me play with her.”

“They try to catch each other being kind,” said Dana Peregrine, Browns Point PTA member. “If somebody gets a link, then they often want to give a link.”

It's part of a culture the staff at Browns Point is trying to create, a place where compassion is part of the vocabulary.

A discussion with a group of students at the school reveals compassion doesn't always come easy.  Like every school in America, there is bullying, name calling, pushing and shoving. There are kids that are left out. It happens every day on the playground and it starts young.

“When we heard and saw these two friends of mine's kids were being mean to each other and saying mean words in first grade. We thought my gosh, it does start that early and what can we do?  We have to do something,” said Peregrine.

That's why Peregrine convinced the PTA to bring Rachel's Challenge to Browns Point last fall. Since then, there's been a school wide-effort to encourage empathy.

“There's a kindness and compassion club, which collected personal care items for homeless kids,” said Peregrine.

And there’s a "kindness corner" at the entrance of the school.

And it seems to be working. Over the past year, the students say fewer kids have been picked on and more kids are reaching out to others.

“I see a lot of people throw bark at people, so I make sure they're ok and bring them to the nurses office,” said one student.

“When someone falls or drops something, they'll help them pick it up,” said another.

“Now whenever we play kickball or 4 square, we include everybody,” said another student.

The kindness seems to be contagious -  all because of Rachel's five challenges:

  • See the best in others
  • Dream big
  • Choose positive influences
  • A small act of kindness makes a big difference
  • Start a chain of reaction of kindness

And the belief that, even at this age, one simple act can change the world.

“It starts a chain reaction like when you're nice to someone, that person passes it to another person and it keeps going around and around the globe,” said another student. “Some point in time, the world will be filled with niceness.”

Some point in time, the whole world will be filled with niceness.

At the end of the school year, Browns Point will be holding a school wide event, celebrating all the acts of kindness and compassion that took place throughout the year.

KING 5 will be sharing stories from Rachel's Challenge throughout the day. And watch KING 5's "Rachel's Challenge: Start a Chain Reaction" special Tuesday night starting at 7:30 p.m.

 

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