People in The News

Teaching Kindness Begins At a Young Age
By Penny Williams/Mikella Eichen   1-28-21

 In such uncertain times as these today,  filled with fear, unknown and chaotic schedules, students in Mikella Eichen's fourth grade classroom at the Atkinson Academy are learning all about acts of kindness.

Getting to experience kindness in a more global setting than their home or class, the fourth graders are receiving a different kind of learning about a subject many of them probably have never given much thought to before. Eichen's presentation of this different kind of learning experience, which goes beyond just listening all the way to doing, is an example of how teachers can be creative in this new world.

Eichen said,  "In our world today, there is such a need to teach the importance of being kind.  It all began with teaching them through the mentor text, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis.  The picture book reminds children and adults about the importance of treating others with kindness and the second chances we can take to make things right."  


This a heady concept to reach into the minds of her fourth graders and bring them out of themselves and into a wider environment. After reading this text to her students, she said her mind started to flow with the endless possibilities and ideas that  she and the students could bring to their community. 

She began this experiential journey by incorporating writing letters to frontline workers at the local nursing home during the class literacy centers.   She collaborated with a mom about writing to frontline workers as she is a nurse at the local nursing home.

"Each student got a name from a list and personalized their letters," she said. "I collaborated with second and fifth grade teachers in our school and outside the district to spread the kindness movement to their students.  This would eventually turn into the 'ripple effect'".  

The fourth graders then painted rocks of kindness that they would drop off to a neighbor with the hope that this would make someone's day and warm their heart with joy.

 Eichen said, "I wanted to keep the kindness movement going with projects each month to give the students a little something to look forward to.  As we know, everything we do must be educational and tie in with standards to make the learning experiences the most meaningful and purposeful lessons for the students." 

It was a natural step for her students to begin to learn all about writing an opinion essay on what they preferred to wear during the cold months, gloves, or mittens. 

"We then took this a step further to integrate this into our Kindness Movement," she said.  "For the past few weeks, I have gathered 24 sweaters and using a mitten template that one of my fourth graders created, I began cutting 22 pairs of mittens out.  Students learned how to sew using a kid safe plastic needle.  These special, heartfelt mittens made with pure love will then go to The Morrison Nursing Home located in Whitefield. I chose this place because  I grew up in the North Country and thought it would be special to be able to drive these back to my hometown and hand them over explaining our Kindness Movement."  

This Kindness Movement has turned into something quite spectacular.  Eichen's fourth graders are learning something truly remarkable, to be kind and watch how it grows. 

"Our school is such a magical place, filled with kindness everywhere, " she said. "It exemplifies the 'ripple effect' and just what can happen when you put 22 students in my class.  The letters, rocks and mittens will be a special memory for each of my fourth graders and will be something they will never forget.  Instead of this year being remembered as the COVID year, it will be, 'remember when we sewed the mittens for the elderly?'  It will be a movement to never forget and something that will last a lifetime."