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Kindness builds their community — online and in person

Digital bulletin board helps students encourage each other

Sparta “I wanted to play ‘Splatoon’, but my brother wanted to watch Netflix.  I let him because we don’t have much internet and it takes too much internet to do both at the same time.”

“I made drawings for everyone in my family.”

“I did dishes”.  “I helped make all the beds”.  “I shoveled snow.”

“I helped Mom take care of my Nana before she passed away.”

It’s hard to stop reading the entries on the Appleview Elementary Random Acts of Kindness Virtual Padlet, a shared private website that works as a digital bulletin board. 

Students in the third through fifth grade building who have been attending virtual school for the 2020-2021 school year were invited to the unique forum as a way to connect with each other and to show love during the month of February.

Luna the cat gets special attention from this third-grader

The five Appleview teachers leading virtual classes have consistently attempted to increase communication between the students – even across grade levels, said fourth grade teacher Beth Lehner, who came up with the idea to have students share ideas and ways that they reach out to others.

“We were thinking about how we might do something special with this somewhat already awkward holiday of Valentine’s Day and wanted students to think past themselves,” she said. “We wanted them to do something to brighten someone’s day that didn’t have to cost money, is safe during this pandemic, and could be shared with the group.”

Fifth-grade teacher Katherine Ley, who is teaching students who have opted for virtual learning, designed the Padlet, and on Feb. 1 students started to post personal random acts of kindness as well as respond to others on the platform.

While at least one student questioned whether they should be bragging about their kind gestures, in the end most students found the entries on the Padlet inspiring. “I found this sentiment really insightful for a fourth grader,” said Lehner, “but we have found that they have just ended up sharing ideas for others to think about.”

Third grader Emma Schaner showered her cat, Luna, with extra love and attention by making her a denim shirt just exactly like the coordinating denim shirt she made for her Dad.  She also put together Valentine care packages for cousins that she misses. Those packages were delivered “via the increasingly popular porch drop method,” said teacher Tammy Singleton. 

Messages on the Appleview Padlet are extremely varied

Third grader Nora Johnson made a picnic lunch for her family, which they enjoyed outside for a special winter meal.  Nora also asked if the Random Acts of Kindness adventure could last for the rest of the year.

Fourth grader Hazel Thompson was so inspired, she started what she named the HIP Kids’ Club. “Helpful, Inspiring and Positive are what the name stands for,” she said. Club members check in together once a week before a virtual online school session. “They encourage each other, share ideas, and make a plan for the next week,” said Lehner.

Virtual teacher Tori Zdanciewicz said that many students post anonymously, and she shared a couple of her favorites. One student said that he/she had “something kind for all sick covid patients, including children.” The post suggested that they make “cute crafts and cook yummy snacks but remember God always watches down on you.” Another post was a drawing of a “Spirit Fox made to keep the family safe.”

The Padlet has several reminders from students to their classmates saying that: “This (pandemic) won’t last forever,” and “We will see each other again sometime.”

At this point, Sparta families have a choice to attend classes in person or virtually. Approximately 20 percent of students attend online classes.

“I think it is doing exactly what we hoped it would do,” said Lehner. 

“This is a cool way for these students to be connected with one another in a virtual world,” added Appleview Principal Mike Birely.

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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

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