8:47 p.m. PST January 22, 2016
Smile at 25 people. Hold the door open for someone. Learn to say “Hello” in a new language.
These are some of the acts Whiteaker Middle School students have been challenged to perform next week.
Using a 50-item checklist, the students have been challenged to do as many kind deeds as possible in one week as part of the national anti-bullying campaign, “The Great Kindness Challenge.”
One out of every four students, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics, reports being bullied during the school year, most often concerning their looks, race or body shape; yet one study showed 64 percent of those bullied did not report it.
An assembly on Friday kicked off the challenge week, which will run Jan. 25 through Jan. 28.
Each day has a theme — Monday is superhero day, Tuesday is sports day, Wednesday is hippie day, and Thursday is crazy hair day.
Students will have the opportunity to take part in daily activities during lunch. They can make kindness posters for their lockers, sign a poster for their feeder elementary schools and write thank-you cards for staff.
They will also be able to write their names on slips of paper, which will all be connected into a chain symbolizing all the individuals committing to ending bullying and promoting kindness. Since the feeder schools have already held their challenge weeks, the middle school students will be adding their links to about 1,000 already created.
The Great Kindness Challenge started at a school in California in 2012. It has spread to nearly 200 schools.
This is the second year Whiteaker has participated in the challenge.
“The whole idea is to have a positive attitude about kindness, instead of a focus on bullying,” said Tami Badinger, vice principal of Whiteaker. “There is already enough negativity.”
Students took a pledge in the gymnasium Friday afternoon, beginning, “I pledge to use my words to speak in a kind way; I pledge to help others as I go throughout my day …”
To introduce the students to the challenge, the eighth-grade leadership class did different skits, games and activities.
They began by changing the ending to a few memorable stories.
For instance, Captain Kindness, a superhero of the challenge, went through traditional stories and spread kindness.
When the big, bad wolf was about to huff and puff and blow the three little piggies’ house down, Captain Kindness told him to stop and do something kind instead, so the wolf brought the pigs some flowers as a housewarming gift.
When Jack fell down the hill, Jill stopped laughing when Captain Kindness pointed out she should help him instead.
And when Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet, the spider decided to give her coffee to have with her curds and whey.
The leadership students also showed a couple videos that promoted kind acts.
Whiteaker has partnered with local organizations and businesses, which have donated to the school’s literacy programs for participating in the challenge.
Pat Curran, the school’s counselor, said he hopes to make this a communitywide challenge, including all Salem-Keizer schools and businesses.
“We want to treat everyone with kindness and generosity,” Badinger said. “It can make or break someone’s day.”