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Students help others through school project

Monday, February 25, 2008

North Clay Middle School sixth-graders were recently assigned the task to complete a random act of kindness. Blake Richmond (from left), Kristen Weddle, Isaac Ruhe, Steven Phillips, Billy WIndle and Ashley Jones all took part in a discussion about the project.
Great books can inspire readers to accomplish almost anything: just ask Paul Harbour's sixth-grade English students.

"Maniac McGee," the Newberry Award Winning kid's book by Jerry Spinelli, prompted Harbour to assign his class an unusual unit project. His students were asked to complete a Random Act of Kindness in the community.

"Maniac" could bring people of all ages, races and economic backgrounds together with his thoughtful acts, but what could North Clay Middle School students accomplish?

The Brazil Times sat down with six of Harbour's 120 students to talk about their projects.

Steven Phillips, Billy Windle, Ashley Jones and Blake Richmond completed their assignment by shoveling snow for neighbors following a heavy snowfall.

Jones shoveled the sidewalk for her elderly neighbors, even when the neighbor said their son could do it later. Although she was nervous they would say no, she insisted on completing her work.

Windle also shoveled for an elderly neighbor, taking over for a man who was already outside.

"I was shoveling for a really old man. I didn't think he should be out there," Windle said. The neighbor "looked kind of thankful and shocked," according to Windle's assignment.

Phillips was able to surprise his neighbors by shoveling their sidewalk after completing his own. They had no idea he was clearing their walk.

Not only did he help his neighbors, but he said he had fun doing it.

Richmond shoveled for several of his neighbors, and put down salt to melt the ice. He said his neighbors now wave to him when he rides by on his bike.

Kirsten Weddle and Isaac Ruhe practiced kindness while shopping.

Ruhe purchased a 12-pack of Coca-Cola for someone when they were short the money. Ruhe said the people wondered why he was helping them.

He felt "relieved I did something good."

Weddle's act made her put aside some of her fears. Weddle overheard an older student at the mall say she wanted a shirt but did not have the money.

Although the older student had picked on Weddle in the past, Weddle purchased the shirt and gave it to the older girl. The stunned girl thanked Weddle, gave her a hug and apologized for her past actions.

The two girls have become friends since the display of kindness.

Those on the receiving end of the acts were not the only surprised parties involved. Richmond said his parents asked him if he was feeling ok, because they were so surprised.

Phillips added when his parents asked him why he did it, he responded, "because I wanted to be nice."

Ruhe said his parents were shocked he parted with his own money for another person. Jones said her parents were surprised she turned down payment for shoveling because she earns money for similar chores from her grandparents.

When asked if they would do it again, the six students agreed they would act without an assignment. They even recommended the project to future students.

If more people were kind, "everyone would get a long better," Weddle said.

"There wouldn't be any wars," Windle added.

The students realized they too benefited from giving to others.

Ruhe said completing the project gave him more confidence, and Windle said he might not have acted as quickly without the assignment.

Weddle was able to repair a friendship, and Richmond made friends with a neighbor's dog.

After completing the project, Richmond said he gets angry when he sees people mistreating others.

"It makes me really mad," he said.

The students said they hope their projects have changed attitudes about kids. When asked why kids get a bad rap, Widdle joked that it was because adults were once kids.

Weddle said she believed some adults stereotyped kids.

"Because one kid is bad, they believe all kids are bad," Weddle explained.

Harbour hopes to continue the project with future classes and give kids a chance to learn about kindness.

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What a nice story

-- Posted by madmom61 on Tue, Feb 26, 2008, at 7:39 AM

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