Representing quilting squares, Mrs. Martin’s class hands came together and left behind the following message for us all - “Every act of kindness weaves together, and like a patchwork quilt brings comfort, warmth and beauty to those it touches.”
By Julie Matuszewski; photos courtesy of American Academy
Kindness Week is an annual tradition celebrated by students and staff at all three American Academy (AA) campuses. This year’s tradition was inspired by Rachel’s Challenge, a movement that challenges schools to create an environment that promotes kindness and tolerance. AA took the challenge and created hands of kindness at each of the schools.
Rachel’s Challenge was formed after the tragic Columbine shooting where Rachel Scott was the first person killed. Despite this tragedy, her legacy and impact lives on.
“Making schools safer, more connected places where bullying and violence are replaced with kindness and respect; and where learning and teaching are awakened to their fullest,” is the vision that is outlined on the foundation’s website.
AA is committed to comprehensive focus on social-emotional wellness, with a large team of student support service professionals supporting all students. Participating in a project based on Rachel’s Hands complements AA long-time manners and character programs. AA school social worker Ginny Rattner took the lead on this project and shared that, as a social worker, she has always been inspired by Rachel Scott’s story. Rattner has followed her story and understood her message and mission found in her journal, as well as, the significance of her handprint.
These handprints were the premise of the project during Kindness Week. All three campuses brought this idea to life in their own special way. Several grades were shown a video explaining Rachel’s Hands and told her story, while other students brought their paper cut-out hands home and completed them with family members. Rattner, with other mental health professionals, shared Rachel’s famous paper, My Codes, My Ethics with middle school classrooms. In this paper, Rachel talked about starting a chain reaction of kindness and the concept that it only takes one person to make a difference.
Colorful hands marked with heartfelt thoughts, wishes and words such as be kind, be nice, be cool, respect and love, came together as one hand which carry on Rachel’s vision for kindness.
Rachel made a difference with students and staff at all three AA campuses. Each student and staff member started with the same outline of a paper hand cut-out, but created a masterpiece that was uniquely their own. Some drew pictures that represented who they are and others shared personal character traits. Teachers and staff showed extra creativity as they produced hands made from 3D printers, wood, sewn material, and combined with many other creative layers.
Separately the hands represent each student and staff as individuals, but together as a whole, they represent something greater. The hands are a reminder that AA created a community, a team and their own chain reaction of kindness, one that will pass down to future generations.
Rattner added, “This was an American Academy team success and the beginning of an everlasting chain reaction of kindness.”
To learn more about Rachel’s Challenge visit, www.RachelsChallenge.org.