The Yelm Community Elementary Schools are setting the example for participation in “The Great Kindness Challenge.” It’s happening across the country and world, and Yelm elementary students are going all in. The challenge is for each person to perform 50 kinds acts over 5 days. It’s meant to practice kindness habits and see the many ways these interactions extend far beyond the school and into the community, as well as into the future.

kids and staff in a Yelm school gym, holding their hands up to make a heart shape and orange cones with letters spelling out 'Kindness matters' in front of them. A screen behind them says 'The great Kindness Challenge' and has a heart-shaped Earth with dove sitting on it
Yelm Community Schools enthusiastically participate in the Great Kindness Challenge with a week of activities often kicking off with an assembly. All six elementary schools are getting involved. Photo courtesy: Yelm Community Schools

“Schools have shown a decrease in discipline and bullying incidents since its implementation nine years ago,” notes Shannon Gubser, YCS SEL (Social Emotional Learning) Specialist. Previously the event was hosted by a limited number of the elementary schools. This year all six locations will participate. Events are planned for the students including a kindness station at lunch time to facilitate completing activities. “We want our students to be leaders,” says Shannon. Acknowledging and encouraging kindness has made significant improvements in behavior. “It absolutely impacted the schools in positive ways including reducing bullying and increasing friends,” she reports.

The Rotary Club of Yelm fully supports the Kindness Challenge. It is providing funds in the amount of $400 per school to purchase things like charms for the shoe day, snacks and other incentives. Businesses in Yelm who support the Kindness Challenge can post a special certificate in their windows. “We have expanded our business partners,” says Shannon. For example, the  Yelm Prairie Christian Center will be making special order coffees for the teachers during the week.

Kindness Challenge Spirit Week

Every day of the week will offer a unique theme and accompanying activity. “The kids love it!” Shannon smiles, who is looking forward to everything herself.

Monday: I Dream of kindness. Wear your pajamas to school.

Tuesday: Kindness Makes a Difference. Wear different shoes on each foot.

Wednesday: I’m Crazy for Kindness. Wear crazy hats or crazy clothes.

Thursday: I Shine with Kindness. Wear shiny or sparkly items.

Friday: I Feel the Beat of Kindness. Listen to uplifting music to encourage myself and the world around me.

a group of grade school dies with minion clothes and a stuffed minion, pose for a photo with a blow up minion.
There are a ‘Minion’ of reasons and ways to practice kindness. The elementary students within Yelm Community Schools are participating in the Great Kindness Challenge. You can, too. Photo courtesy: Yelm Community Schools

Grocery Outlet Bags with Hand Drawn Kindness Messages

The Kindness Challenge extends well past its designated week. Yelm’s Grocery Outlet operators and Rotarians Greg and Stephanie Vinyard get in on the action. The Grocery Outlet will be giving stacks of bags to students to decorate with pictures and messages. The artistic bags are returned to the store, so that when people do their shopping and need a bag, they will be the fortunate recipients of the uplifting messages.

Yelm Community School Art Contest and Book Publishing

Students districtwide from K-12 are encouraged to enter the art contest with the theme “Kindness Matters: How We Create Kindness in Our Yelm Community.” The top 25 submissions selected will be compiled into a book published through Amazon. “We are proud to support this activity and help spread the message,” says Sophia Struna, a board member of Learners without Limits.

two young students plant a primrose with the help of an adult
Kindness can be learned and practiced. Yelm Community Schools are celebrating acts of kindness with a special week of programming. Planting kindness can be both literal and figurative. Photo courtesy: Yelm Community Schools

Chili Drive for All Kids Win

Students at participating schools will be collecting cans of chili for All Kids Win (AKW) or Yelm Rotary. AKW provide bags of weekend food for students who have shortages, which totals 12,000 bags over a school year. Some of these students live in the Yelm Community Schools area. Chili is a reliable and costly staple, so chili drives are greatly appreciated. The Yelm Rotary provides weekend food during summer months. One Kindness Week activity is writing hopeful, positive messages to include in the individual Rotary food bags. “It is a small but impactful act of kindness that goes a long way for those receiving support,” says Sophia Struna, community outreach coordinator for YCS.

Kindness Ideas: Use These and Add your Own for Your Week

These are a few of the ideas being used by the nearly 3,000 Yelm elementary students:

  • Smile at 25 people
  • Surprise a friend with a sweet note
  • Compliment five people
  • Pick up trash
  • Make a new friend
  • Tell a joke and help someone laugh
  • Be kind to yourself with a healthy snack
  • Learn something new about a friend
  • Draw a picture and give it away
  • Help someone
  • Recycle your paper, glass and cans
  • Hug some you really like
  • Cut out hearts and give them to friends
  • Entertain someone with a happy dance
  • Make a kind poster for cafeteria helpers – or anyone you know working hard
  • Say thank you and mean it
  • Ask, “How are you doing?” and then listen for the answer
  • Send thank you notes
  • Read a book to a youngster or maybe someone older
a young student hugs a firefighter who is holding a plate of cookies
Elementary schools within Yelm Community Schools are making time to show kindness, such as thanking firefighters. Students are encouraged to complete 50 kindness acts over the week. Photo courtesy: Yelm Community Schools

The schools provide kindness ideas in both English and Spanish.

Yelm Community School Kindness Ambassadors

Many hands are needed to make Kindness Week a success. Here are a few of the team.

  • Fort Stevens Elementary: Mikylah Alkire
  • Lackamas Elementary: Gaynor Fitzgerald-Males & Annie Ford
  • McKenna Elementary: Myrna Porter
  • Mill Pond Elementary: Deanna Serna-Harrison
  • Prairie Elementary: Sarah Bennie
  • Southworth Elementary: Jordan Harrison, MaKenzie Maxwell, Kim Holmes

Consider getting on board with the rest of the world for this special week. You don’t have to wear pajamas to work, but you could. It’s easy to hold the door for someone and say “Please” and “Thank you.” Have fun making up your own list and sharing it with your friends.

Wouldn’t it be a great idea to practice kindness every week?

Keep up with events and information on the Yelm Community Schools website and Facebook page.


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