At Miller Elementary School kindness has been a theme.

Especially for fifth graders, who focused on spreading kindness in the community as part of their PBIS Kindness unit.

Fifth-grade teacher Brienne Heimermann said each month PBIS focuses on a character trait, and this past month the focus has been on kindness.

The unit was kicked off with reading the book Wonder, by R.J. Palacio and ended with students creating projects that spread kindness in the community.

Heimermann said the book was chosen by the fifth-grade teachers because the movie based on the film came out in November, and they wanted to take students to see it. She said the book tied in with the unit.

“After finishing our narrative unit and before diving into our informative unit, we wanted to spend some time teaching a kindness unit where the students watched videos and participated in classroom discussions and activities on the topics of acceptance, tolerance, stereotypes and labels,” she said. “Also, the book is about kindness and being accepting of people’s differences … so we turned that into character building lessons.”

Once the book was read and the movie watched, students teamed up to create proposals for projects to spread kindness, Heimermann said.

“We wanted the students to cooperatively work on projects that will allow them to authentically “choose kind” and spread kindness in our community,” she said. “The learning objectives of the unit were to brainstorm ideas, to execute a plan by thinking about who their audience would be, how their project would spread kindness, and the materials and steps they would need to take as a group to create the project.”

It was fun to watch the students work together, Heimermann said.

“I thought it was really cool to see the students work collaboratively ... and the opportunity to work creatively,” she said. “It was fun to allow the classroom to get chaotic and messy, but it was for good reasons. ... It has been so enjoyable watching our students work hard on these projects and to share their generosity and creativity.”

Heimermann said she and fellow fifth-grade teacher Allison McNamara were impressed by the students’ hearts and thoughts.

“We both are so proud of how they’ve learned to acknowledge differences in the people they encounter in the world and their developing motivation to advocate for those people.”

The students’ projects included fleece blankets for people taken in ambulances, gift bags of baby items for moms and newborns at the hospital, posters and cards for local nursing home residents and patients at Tomah Memorial Hospital and the Tomah Veterans Administration hospital, dog toys for an animal shelter, snowflakes and smiling stick people with messages for students and staff and kindness posters for the school’s hallways.

Miller principal Diana Lesneski is proud of her students and the teachers.

“Corny as it may sound, this kindness project makes my heart happy,” she said. “I’m proud of our fifth-grade students. They embraced the idea to make a difference and spread a little kindness to our community. And I’m thankful for our fifth-grade teachers, Ms. McNamara and Ms. Heimermann, and our support staff, Mrs. (Cheryl) Schuster and Ms. (Caitie) Stanek, for seizing this incredible learning opportunity and taking the time to make it a reality.”

Heimermann also expressed prid e in the students.

“This has been a great opportunity for the students to remember it’s not what you give, it’s the thought that counts,” she said. “We can also proudly tell you that the students that have little to give put their whole hearts into these projects and are so proud of their work.”

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