Bird Rock Elementary School takes on ‘The Great Kindness Challenge’

Students at Bird Rock Elementary School are participating in "The Great Kindness Challenge" this week.
Students at Bird Rock Elementary School are participating in “The Great Kindness Challenge,” which is being held worldwide this week.
(Jessica Donovan)

Kids tackle a checklist of goodwill acts and gestures, write cards to senior citizens and veterans, and practice other ways to ‘promote more positivity.’


Students at Bird Rock Elementary School in La Jolla are getting a lesson in the power of good deeds this week during the 12th annual “Great Kindness Challenge.”

The challenge, originated in 2012 by Carlsbad-based nonprofit Kids for Peace, is a weeklong project Jan. 23-27 by schools around the globe to take on bullying and foster connection, inclusion, happiness and compassion.

Jessica Donovan, co-president of the Bird Rock Foundation and parent chair for Kindness Week, said Bird Rock Elementary began The Great Kindness Challenge on Jan. 23 with students using chalk to “decorate basically the whole campus with either phrases about kindness or drawing pictures that help them feel happy.”

Children were provided a checklist of tasks and gestures to work on throughout the week, such as smiling at 25 people, helping a teacher, reading a book to a younger student, giving a high-five, cleaning up trash and sitting with someone new at lunch.

Donovan said there also are schoolwide activities such as making a paper chain of kind thoughts and writing cards to retirement communities and military veterans.

“Kindness Week just brings a greater awareness as to how powerful kindness can be.”

— Kim Williams, Bird Rock Elementary School third-grade teacher

This is the fourth year Bird Rock Elementary has participated in The Great Kindness Challenge. Donovan, the mother of a third-grader and a kindergartner, has been part of it since her family entered the school and said “it’s something the kids always seem to really enjoy.”

When her kids “see how they can make somebody else smile, it makes them feel better,” Donovan said, and that energy spreads.

When a child is having a bad day and “they don’t know how to get out of that funk themselves,” a kind gesture can “flip that switch and break that cycle of negativity and promote more positivity,” Donovan said.

At Bird Rock Elementary, she said, students “love being able to express themselves” through acts of kindness.

Bird Rock students will try to complete the items on a kindness checklist this week.
(Jessica Donovan)

Kindergarten teacher Ali Nieblas said her students were excited about Kindness Week because “they love showing kindness by helping other people [and] think they will make a lot of friends.”

Third-grade teacher Kim Williams said one of her students said a lesson learned in last year’s Kindness Challenge was that “being kind is the correct thing to do. Treat people with kindness and love, not anger and hate. Kindness always fixes things.”

Williams added that “Kindness Week just brings a greater awareness as to how powerful kindness can be, what it looks like to be kind and how even the smallest of actions and words can have the greatest impact on the social and emotional happiness of all human beings.”

“We shouldn’t have to think about being kind,” she said. “It should be effortless, automatic and universal.”

When kids are presented with the chance to do something good, they want to, Donovan said. “We have to give them those chances. When they realize how good it makes them feel, [it] becomes a little bit more natural for them” to continue. ◆