The days leading up to Winter Break can be some of the longest days of the school year for both students and teachers. In order to keep her fifth grader’s attention, Lauren King, a teacher at Geiger Elementary School in Lewiston, Maine, decided to invite a kindness penguin in the classroom.
Because who doesn’t love a stuffed penguin wearing a Mad Bomber hat?
The idea was inspired by Elf on the Shelf, but Lauren didn’t want to get into the Believers vs. Non- Believers discussion, so she chose a random acts of kindness theme.
On December 2, a penguin appeared in the fifth grade classroom with a “flipper” written note explaining why it was there. The penguin did not have a name so it asked the students to come up with one for him. Skipper Waddles received the winning votes.
On his first visit, Skipper Waddles left them small candy canes (“in you forgot to brush your teeth”). The very first act of kindness Skipper suggested was to just smile at someone.
Each day, he would leave another small but meaningful act of kindness for the children to participate in if they so chose. Each morning, it was exciting to see who could find Skipper first and find out their new assignment! Lauren reports that most of the students participated whole heartedly.
Some days Skipper would leave them Hershey’s kisses to “kiss their brains and have a thoughtful day,” or he would leave other treats for the kids to give away during the day.
Skipper’s last big and final act of kindness on December 22 was to write a letter to an adult at school who had made a positive impact on their lives and deliver it with a candy cane. Before they could deliver the letters, their teacher needed to read them, according to Skipper. Most of the letters made Lauren’s eyes well up.
According to Lauren, “these kids wrote some of the kindest words a teacher would ever want to read. I was actually fortunate enough to receive three letters myself (yes, they made me tear up just as much!).”
This is the first time Lauren has implemented something like this in her classroom. She shared that the group of kids she currently has in her classroom are “something truly special.”
One act was to play with someone new at recess. After recess, kids explained to Lauren that they found a new person to play with and through this they found out they all had more in common than they thought. New friendships were being built!
These fifth graders are truly exceptional human beings full of compassion. This little experiment with Skipper Waddles the kindness penguin showed them that no matter how small an act of kindness seems, the acts have a truly lasting impression.
Lauren never forced reflection from the kids and never told them they had to report to her about what they did or didn’t do. It came naturally in their end of day conversations.
As Lauren explains, “I think this really helped them see that they can leave their school better than how they found it, even if it just a small smile and a wave, or holding the door, or letting someone “cut” them in the lunch line!”
It seems we have a bunch of simple givers on our hands in Lewiston.
Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer.