Teaching kindness to kids is imperative to their education so that they grow up knowing to embrace themselves, to love others, and to be kind to everyone they meet. People are now seeing that social emotional learning (SEL) is just as crucial for students as traditional classroom subjects like math or science.
Some schools, and specifically some teachers, go above and beyond to instill these values into their students’ minds and hearts. Art teacher SuzAnne Devine Clark has made kindness a priority in her classroom curriculum each year, and her students now look forward to the next kindness project they get to work on together.
Giving back with her students
SuzAnne Devine Clark is an art teacher at Deerfield Beach Elementary School in Florida, and she’s been teaching there since 2000. She loves getting to express her creativity every day, and it means even more to her when she gets to share that with her students. Mrs. Devine Clark gets her students involved in Projects with a Purpose, where each year they give back to a worthy cause or organization.
Since 2005, Mrs. Devine Clark has been making Pinwheels for Peace with her students in celebration of International Peace Day. The students each design a pinwheel with messages of peace written on them, and they put them all around the school and the community. Over the years, SuzAnne has done dozens of other philanthropic projects with her students, some being: Houses for Haiti, Keys for the Keys, and most recently Hearts of Hope for Hopetown. The students make small pieces of art that they sell for $1 to donate and give back to relief efforts after natural disasters occur.
Stones for Stoneman
After the horrific school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in South Florida, SuzAnne came up with the idea: Stones for Stoneman. She, her students, and people throughout South Florida got together and painted rocks with kind messages on them to place inside the school. Word spread, and people all over the country shipped rocks to Stoneman Douglas. When the children eventually came back to school, the community wanted them to see these positive and uplifting messages, and know they are loved and supported.
Kindness Rocks in the Classroom
Because of the success of the Stones for Stoneman project, The Kindness Rocks Project founder Megan Murphy flew down to Florida on the first anniversary of the tragedy. SuzAnne and Megan got to meet, and SuzAnne also met other local rock-painters in the community. It was around this time when she decided to incorporate Kindness Rocks into her school.
This year, to celebrate International Peace Day, students and teachers at DBES made Pinwheels for Peace, posed as the “I” in Kind, and decorated kindness rocks. Each student created two rocks, one to place in the peace garden that will be at the school year-round, and one to keep or give away as they please. The students loved rock-painting so much that Mrs. Devine Clark plans to keep it as an activity they can work on all year!
SuzAnne is now an ambassador for The Kindness Rocks Project, and her school is an ambassador school for the program as well.
The Power of Kindness
Mrs. Devine Clark has been a teacher long enough that some of her early elementary students have graduated from college. One of her students, in particular, is a current college student. She’s painting thermal drinking cups in the colors of the Bahamas flag, and she’s selling each cup to raise money for Hurricane Dorrian relief efforts. The student’s mom reached out to SuzAnne to thank her for the lessons that were instilled into her daughter while she was SuzAnne’s student.
It makes SuzAnne feel incredible to see the lasting impact that her projects are having on her students. With so much division in the world and bullying in schools, she does as much as she can to teach kids at a young age how important it is to be kind to one another. She says, “I want my students to know that their art is powerful, their art has a meaningful message, and it can positively impact others.” That’s SuzAnne’s legacy, and it’s making a huge ripple effect on her students, her community, and the world.