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The City Journals

It’s cool to be kind at Butterfield Canyon

Mar 29, 2019 09:53AM ● By Jet Burnham

Student council members deliver a message from the student body to local firefighters. (Photo courtesy Michelle Thorn)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Students and faculty at Butterfield Canyon Elementary can’t stop smiling. That’s because they signed a pledge to smile more.

“I started doing it, and it actually made other people smile, and it made their day, and they seemed happy,” said fifth-grader Benjamin Hill.

The pledge was January’s challenge, part of a yearlong kindness campaign perpetuating kindness through a monthly theme and challenge and weekly activities focusing students on being kind to self, peers, family and community.

 “We want them to keep thinking about it continuously and keep challenging themselves to continue that kindness through each day,” said Michelle Thorn, the fifth-grade teacher who created the campaign. Students and faculty members participate in challenges such as performing random acts of kindness, saying hello to a minimum number of people in a day or picking up trash around the school.

“I love that there’s a focus on kindness and that every student gets a chance to make a difference for other people,” said Principal Amanda Bollinger. 

Student council members, with support from Thorn and additional council advisers Brandon Maulis and Jen Joos, compile and deliver all the instructions and materials teachers need to implement the weekly activities with their students.

“If the teachers had to go get the stuff and actually plan it out, they wouldn't be doing it,” said Sadie Ashton, a fifth-grader on the council. “They’re so busy, so I think it’s nice that they can just get the stuff and be able to enjoy it with their class.”

Thorn has received positive feedback from teachers, who make time for the activities during class.

“Teachers say it’s changing the culture of our school,” said Thorn. “They’re seeing differences of kindness in their classroom. They’re feeling like they’re leading their classroom with more kindness because of it.”

The program was initially developed to focus on kindness for the first week of the new school year.

“We all loved it so much that I just turned it into a kindness campaign for our whole school for the whole year,” said Thorn.

Fifth-grader Alexa Raiford has noticed there are fewer students sitting alone during recess since the campaign began.

Lexi Jacobson, a sixth grader, said, “It’s made our school a lot more welcoming and open to new students, and it’s just made everyone happy.” She said many of the activities have had lasting effects, such as when students wrote compliments to each other on sticky notes earlier in the school year.

“I still see people in different classes with their sticky notes on their desks because it just made their day and made them feel a lot better,” said Lexi.

Activities involve the larger community as well. In February, student council members delivered Valentine cards created by each class to residents at a nearby assisted living center while the school choir entertained them. A banner of appreciation with each student’s fingerprint on it was delivered to the Herriman police department. Another month, the fire department received a banner decorated with every student’s handprint.

“We always have the whole school involved,” said Thorn. “So, even they can’t go deliver it, they can still be a part of it.” 

Kindness has become the school culture.

“It’s really created a culture of ‘this is what we all do’ and that we can all make a difference with each other,” said Bollinger. “We’ve tied the whole theme throughout everything we’ve done this year.”

Humorist and positive speaker Hank Smith presented an assembly about kindness and Family Literacy Night’s theme incorporated February’s “Spread Happiness” theme.

The program also ties in with other kindness campaigns at nearby schools. In February, student leaders from Fort Herriman Middle School’s Kindness Squad visited several elementary schools, including Butterfield Canyon, to present an object lesson on kindness.

“It’s peer empowerment,” said FHMS Kindness Squad adviser Becky Hunsaker. “You’ve got to reach the younger kids with students. It’s more impactful to have them see a middle schooler who they think is really cool.”