SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Students – and staff – at Roosevelt Elementary recently took part in a week long, school wide kindness initiative. Organized by kindergarten teacher Mary Beth Basedow and held Feb. 3 through Feb. 7, Roosevelt's first Great Kindness Challenge featured assemblies, spirit days, and other activities while also raising money and awareness to help the animals affected by the Australian wildfires. 

“We’ve had a very busy week practicing and celebrating kindness,” Basedow told TAPinto South Plainfield.

As part of the Great Kindness Challenge, students were encouraged to perform as many acts of kindness as possible from a list of 50; acts included, but weren’t limited to, making someone laugh, complimenting people, recycling and picking up trash, saying ‘good morning’ and ’thank you,’ offering help, befriending someone new, and more. 

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To kick off the initiative, students were welcomed into school on Feb. 3 through a kindness tunnel made out of balloons and, throughout the week, kindness quotes were read during morning announcements; kindness stations were set up at recess, and there were kindness-related spirit days. There was also a read around day in which teachers swapped classes to read a book and facilitated a discussion and/or activity. 

“These activities are teaching the kids not only the importance of being kind to one another, but also that doing so can have a lasting impact on your own sense of self-worth,” said Basedow, adding, “Our society places so much emphasis on things like what kind of clothes you wear or where you go on vacation. The Great Kindness Challenge reminds us that what truly matters most is how you treat people.”

Roosevelt’s Great Kindness Challenge also tied in with the school’s new ‘Pause-itivity’ pilot program. Designed to positively shift the school’s culture and increase the mental and emotional wellness of faculty and students, ‘Pause-ivitiy’ is run by Lou Redmond, author and founder of the New Jersey-based One Mindful Education who, on Feb. 6, hosted two assemblies  focused on a ‘mindfulness approach.’ 

During the assemblies, students learned, in a fun and age-appropriate way, how Redmond’s 5 Element methodology – ‘connect,’ breath,’ ‘move,’ ‘focus,’ and ‘relax’ – can help regulate emotions, manage stress and anxiety, improve focus and attention, increase compassion, create connections, and improve sleep. 

“The ‘Pause-itivity’ assembly was about mindfulness. Mindfulness can help us learn to be more kind to ourselves and others, which connects nicely with the Great Kindness Challenge,” said Basedow, adding that she has personally been implementing mindfulness practices into her classroom on a daily basis. 

“In just a couple of weeks, I’ve seen my students develop the ability to identify how they are feeling - physically, mentally, and emotionally - to recognize when those feelings may be making it difficult to stay focused, and more importantly, how to express that they may be struggling due to those feelings and need some help dealing with that,” she said. Roosevelt’s Great Kindness Challenge also included the Coins for Koalas fundraising effort, which runs through Feb. 14. The goal is to raise $3,000 for the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Australian Wildlife and Nature Recovery to help the animals affected by the recent wildfires.

With more than $1,000 already donated in the first week, students who showed a significant number of acts of kindness throughout the week had the chance to pie third grade teacher Mike Betram during a morning assembly Feb. 7; as of press time, approximately $2,800 has been raised and, as a result, art teacher Melanie Glowacki will be duct-taped to the wall. If the goal of $3,000 is reached by Feb. 14, Goman will have to shave his hair off. Additionally, the class from each grade that raises the most money will earn an extra recess.

“I would like to thank Mrs. Basedow for bringing the idea to Roosevelt and taking the lead in organizing all the events of kindness week. The week was a great success and without the support of all the teachers it would not have been possible,” said Goman, adding that the week’s events provided students with enjoyable ways to learn ‘valuable lessons about courtesy and kindness.’ 

“Kindness can come in many different sizes and shapes. I hope all students were able to walk away from this week seeing first-hand the power of not only receiving kindness but giving it as well,” he said. 

Basedow told TAPinto that she got the idea to hold the event at Roosevelt after her son, who attends school in Flemington, brought home a flier for the Great Kindness Challenge. 

“I looked into the program’s website and it seemed like something that we should be participating in at Roosevelt School,” she said, adding that she is ‘blown away’ by the ‘overwhelming’ support the program received from Goman, the teachers and staff - including a dozen who volunteered to help run the program - and Roosevelt families. 

“There wasn’t a single idea or component of this program that Dr. Goman said would be too much or was unnecessary. He was all in on all of it, right from the start,” said Basedow. “As for the teachers and staff, we asked a lot from them this week; from the assemblies and activities to the daily coin counting, it took a lot of time and effort from everyone and yet so many of my colleagues have approached me to say how excited they are and that we should do these things all year long.”

Additionally, said Basedow, ‘from participation in the spirit days, to the generous donations to [the] Coins for Koalas fundraising campaign, Roosevelt families have really come through.’

“The support for this program has just been overwhelming,” she said, adding, “Please keep encouraging your children to work on their acts of kindness checklists, and check out the family edition at www.thegreatkindnesschallenge.com.”

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