How two schools linked chains to span between the two buildings

If you're looking for ideas on how to set goals for your school's (acts of kindness) chain links, then learn how one school increased their chain links goal each year and expanded it into the community.  Eggert Elementary school in New York changed their school culture to a kindness and a compassion culture.  It inspired another neighboring elementary school, South Davis Elementary, to join them.  Rachel's Challenge heard about this chain link goal and went to New York to see their end of the year celebration.  Watch the video below to see their Rachel's Rally in action.

Rachel’s Challenge:  Tell me about your vision for this Rachel’s Rally.

Michelle:  Today we had our Rachel’s Rally celebration.  Both South Davis Elementary and Eggert Elementary did a kickoff earlier this year with Chris (a Rachel’s Challenge Presenter).  We challenged ourselves to do enough acts of kindness to span the 1.9 miles between the two buildings and stretch it through the community.  So today we are celebrating in honor of not only reaching that goal but exceeding that goal.  We actually did 10,668 acts of kindness to span the two miles plus some.  So today was our celebration with the students and we got to pull out all of our links and celebrate those acts of kindness and how far we've come this year.

Rachel’s Challenge:  So why did you decide to make the 1.9 mile distance your goal?

Michelle:  So Eggert Elementary has done Rachel’s Challenge for two years prior to this.  Last year South Davis Elementary had heard what a wonderful experience we were having here at our buildings, so they decided to join us this year and become a team with us here in our district.  Then it really was just a brainstorm of like, "How can we not only do the acts of kindness in our schools but how do we make the concept reach through the community?"  So our concept was the two miles between the buildings.  It's really acts of kindness that are spreading through the community and connecting the two buildings.  Through the communities, that was really the importance of the two buildings being together today for the rally.

Rachel’s Challenge:  By having this goal, was it motivating to the students and staff?

Michelle:   It was.  So each year that we've done Rachel's Rally here at Eggert we've actually increased the number of acts of kindness we've done.  So each year I think the excitement grows.  How much the students are invested in the program has grown.  So we see an increase each year but this year knowing that we had a goal to reach, part of our morning announcements, each morning we play an announcement to remind the kids about it.  We do little words of wisdom on Wednesdays and we talk about it.  We definitely encouraged and talked about our goal.  We also hung our links down the hallways so the students could see the growth throughout the year and how far we've come.  So it was really cool to see us pass our point from last year and continue on with the links.  But having that goal set of where we wanted to be, definitely inspired the students to do more acts of kindness than we ever have before.

Rachel’s Challenge:  Can you tell me how you selected the activities to do during the rally and why?

Michelle:   So this year for the Rachel's Rally we definitely wanted to inspire the excitement that we've had all year and culminate that with an exciting program.  So one of things we did was from the moment they stepped off the bus, we had our staff lining the sidewalk high-fiving with music playing as the kids came.  We had mascots from our two home Buffalo (New York) teams greeting the kids and taking pictures as they entered the building.  So we wanted that excitement to start the moment they walked in.  The other thing that we did all year that was like our theme, was the song, “Count On Me”.  The kids had been singing it all year.  It was something that was kind of the reverberating message all year.  So we had that as our culminating song today as they all held the links that we did.  It was just a nice way to end it, but it was all about the excitement and the positivity of the year that we want to wrap up into today's event.

Rachel’s Challenge:  What have you noticed during this past school year leading up the rally?

Michelle:  I think one of the things that I saw change more in the last two years… I think the first year the kids really focused on doing a physical act of kindness, like opening a door or picking something up off the floor.  I think the focus in the kids really changed, as we've done it longer.  Now it's become really a culture in our building.  It’s not just doing that, it's also accepting others, making sure they're sitting with you at lunch.  If there's a new friend, were including them at recess and being aware of the other students around us.  So seeing that change over the last couple years has been a fantastic difference in our building.  It's not always just about the door and the picking something up.  It's really become about how we treat others and that the kindness comes through that way.  So that change has been fantastic.

I think the first year the kids really focused on doing a physical act of kindness... Now it's become really a culture in our building.

Rachel’s Challenge:  Organizing this rally is above and beyond your job description, what motivates you to do it? 

Michelle:  I think what’s motivating about the end of the assembly is, I think all year and including the end of the year assembly, it sets the tone for what we’re going to do next year.  So I think finishing it off with the kids and having that excitement at the end of your celebration and really highlighting how far we've come gives us the excitement to continue this next year.  I think just leaving it (uncelebrated) doesn't lend itself to the carryover.  Our purpose this year and our push has definitely been that it doesn't stop within our building.  It has expanded beyond.  We even incorporated our school buses in our acts of kindness.  We also sent them (students with chain links) home so they can earn links at home through their parents with things that they did out in the community or in their household.  We really were pushing this year for expanding it beyond our walls.  Having the event today and sending them off into the summer with the message of, "This is just who we're becoming.  We're kind people.  We do acts of kindness", was really important for the culture were trying to develop in the kids and the character trying to develop.

Our purpose this year and our push has definitely been that it doesn't stop within our building. It has expanded beyond.

Rachel’s Challenge:  Have you seen a difference in your school?

Michelle:  Absolutely seen a difference in our school.  Like I was saying earlier, the change in not only doing things like picking up a book but making sure that we're aware of the students around us, including others, and be accepting of others has definitely changed in our buildings.  Our culture is definitely a kinder, friendlier place for everyone to be.

If you would like to share your FOR Club project with Rachel’s Challenge, please contact Janet Stumbo at jstumbo@rachelschallenge.org.

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