- Sponsorship -

Fourth-graders spread goodwill with ‘Wake Up the World Wednesdays’

Encourage teachers, other students throughout school

Being thoughtful and nice is good advice for any day, but students in Laurie Van Dam’s fourth-grade class at Cedar View make an extra effort every Wednesday.

While many of the activities are done in secret, after three years of the school’s “Wake Up the World Wednesdays,” the recipients often figure out from where their special thank-yous, greetings or treats have come.

But even though the secret identity of the class is out, the students never miss a chance to brighten someone’s day. And they still sign their notes and cards with “mystery class.”

Activities vary from something as simple as putting a sticky note on lockers, to preparing detailed posters of each teacher’s interests for an upcoming parent-teacher conference, she said. “I  want them to always look for ways to make people smile,” said Van Dam.

“Cool” is one way many describe the Wake Up the World Wednesday activities.

“It’s cool when we go around the school to spread cheer and put notes on lockers or hide things,” said fourth-grader Logan Redes.

“They do different activities, like the time each student made stickers with something kind or uplifting written on them before putting them on random lockers,” said  Alexandria Maybie, Van Dam’s student teacher. “This is really cool.”

From left, Emilee Reisig, Sean Davis and Lucy Lyons work on making a greeting card to cheer up someone’s day

Finding ways to spread cheer

On one recent Wake Up the World Wednesday, the students were asked to think of people who make a difference in their school but are generally behind the scenes.

“Let’s see if we can think about how many people help around school that we don’t usually thank,” Van Dam told the class.

A short brainstorming session resulted in a list that included office personnel, custodians, cafeteria staff, recess aides (“because they have to stand in the cold”), and maintenance workers who keep the school utilities like heat and light in order.

When the list was complete students went to work designing and preparing greeting cards.

“You’re cool because you make sure we get to school safely,” says the card students prepared for bus drivers and corner guards.

Students also made going away cards and posters for a fellow student who was moving out of the district.

They particularly had fun writing words of kindness on paper attached to fellow fourth-graders’ backs. Instead of leaving the classroom to spread good thoughts, the idea that Wednesday was to share joy with their classmates.

Example of a special poster for a special teacher

Getting over the hump

The idea for special Wednesday activities came to Van Dam a few years ago. She and her then team teacher Taylor Funk started each day with an activity designed to encourage their students to do random acts of kindness throughout the school.

“I guess I kind of thought of it because of the popular ‘hump day’ stuff,” said Van Dam. “It isn’t anything like just trying to get through the week, but rather it is a good time to stop and reflect about how the week is going.

“Research shows that gratitude brings joy,” she added. “I want the students to give others something to be grateful for and spread a little joy.”

Students look forward to Wednesdays in her class because they get to play a part in waking up the world. “It feels good to spread joy,” said fourth-grader Brooklyn Plumb.

Spreading joy to others brings the feeling full circle.

“I see their joy when they do these things,” said Van Dam. “When they made things for their fellow student who was leaving, they saw his smile when they gave them to him. They really love doing things like this.”

- Sponsorship -
Janice Holst
Janice Holst
Janice Holst is a reporter covering Kent City and Sparta. She has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and enjoys spending some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio or email Janice.


Young constitutional scholars view current events, politics through historical lens

East Grand Rapids and East Kentwood high school We the People team members have qualified for the national competition, becoming well versed in civics and critical thinking along the way...

Rain gutter regatta showcases buoyancy, engineering skills

An annual boat race has become a highlight of sixth-grade science class. At stake: bragging rights and 'a goofy trophy'...

The Hood family: a school & community leadership dynasty

Five generations have lived within a five- to six-mile radius dating back to a government work program in the 1930s...

The sky’s the limit (or is it?) for this accomplished model builder

Creative, innovative, imaginative … Many of today’s students are all that and more in a vast variety of interest areas. This series features students with exceptional and unusual gifts...


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related Articles

Cohorted specials usher in ‘a new kind of community’

Cedar Trails Elementary School’s “specials” teachers — art, music, physical education and literacy and technology — have joined forces to create an outdoor recreation program...

Schools in nine districts announce closures as COVID cases spike

New temporary school building closures were announced by nine school districts in Kent ISD this week, as schools contend with a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases in Kent County and Michigan...

CARES funding helps schools meet COVID-related costs

Across Kent County, schools are benefitting from an infusion of funds thanks to $2 million from the Kent County Board of Commissioners via the Kent County CARES Act School Grant Program...
- Sponsorship -


Engagement: The Most Important Measure of Student Success

Polls find that students’ engagement in their school work declines as they ascend the grades. Tests that don’t relate to their real-life experiences exacerbate the problem...


Food ‘angels’ support hungry kids through pandemic

They work all across Kent County, guardian angels with peanut butter on their hands and crumbs on their shirtsleeves...
- Sponsorship -


Maranda Where You LiveWGVU