The third-grade students from Lee’s Summit Elementary have been learning lessons about kindness, caring and empathy from some sweet creatures, thanks to a program with Wayside Waifs.
The 6-month initiative, named Pawsitively Spreading Kindness, is the fulfillment of a project developed by Wendy Hilbert, library media specialist, and Daphne Mack, school counselor. The program is tied to the school’s kindness theme for 2018-19.
The school decided to focus on the word “kindness” this year, Hilbert said.
“As Daphne and I started thinking about this word, we asked what it looks like for children. A lot of times, kids don’t know, and it can be hard to teach them these lessons.”
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But animals are perfectly suited to offer those lessons, she said.
“Also, animals don’t judge or tease, like people can. It’s safe to practice kindness and compassion with animals. So, they became the springboard to fulfill the vision of kindness for our students, staff and school community.”
Thanks to a grant from Lee’s Summit CARES, the animal-focused kindness program received funding for the Wayside Waifs partnership, which will go toward field trip transportation, student T-shirts and program materials.
“This is an amazing opportunity our students wouldn’t have without the grant from Lee’s Summit CARES,” Hilbert said. “We feel so fortunate to be able to provide this for them.”
Earlier in the month, the school’s 45 third-graders began their multifaceted journey of kindness. John Parker, humane educator at Wayside Waifs, visited the school with George, a dog he adopted from the shelter shortly after he began working there. Parker educated the students about Wayside Waifs and its purposes. He also taught them about basic pet care, shelter, feeding and appropriate play.
In January, the students have plans to take the first of two project-related field trips to the shelter.
“The first field trip is a service project,” Hilbert said “It was important to have the foundation of education this past week, and it’s also important to back that up with service. Involving kids in service to the community was part of the grant we received.”
During January’s service-focused field trip, the third-graders will complete various jobs at the shelter, including sweeping, filling animals’ water bowls and folding their blankets.
“Through this work at the shelter, the kids will learn how the animals are cared for and understand this very important component of responsibility for animals,” Hilbert said. “It will also be extremely powerful for them to see all of the people at Wayside Waifs who are giving these animals a second chance.”
Third-grader Wesley Butler is enthusiastic about the Pawsitively Spreading Kindness project.
“I think it’s good for people to find stray and hurt animals and take them to Wayside Waifs, so people can adopt them,” he said. “My mom got her cat there.”
Fellow student Kai Spangler is also excited about working with the shelter animals.
“I think it’s going to be a fun and good experience,” she said.
Between their first and second field trip, which is scheduled for March, each of the students will write and illustrate a kindness-focused book about what he or she learned and experienced at Wayside Waifs. These books will be shared with students of all grades at the school, as well as the greater Lee’s Summit community.
“We want to impact more students than our third-graders and provide a more extended effect from the project, so more students can benefit and see the value of spreading kindness,” Hilbert said. “We’re educating the third grade about what kindness looks like, then we’ll reach out to our school and community to share those greater lessons of kindness.”
For the March field trip, the young author/illustrators will return to Wayside Waifs, completed books in hand, for their second field trip. As they continue to build the bonds of kindness, sharing and understanding, the students will read their books to the shelter animals.
“For several months, the students will have learned about how to treat animals with kindness and compassion. Then, during the second field trip, the animals will model their empathy, patience and listening for the students,” Hilbert said.
“The students will also be helping to socialize the animals.”