During Christmas break, North Clay Middle School students Hayden and Lucy France weren't concerned about sleeping in, staying up late or receiving the biggest present under their tree.
They wanted to give back.
As part of a homework assignment, each child gave flowers to an unsuspecting person in the Kroger parking lot for the Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) group started by their teachers Jennifer and Paul Harbour.
The students purchased the flowers with their own money.
Hayden's recipient was a recently widowed woman he and his mother recognized from church.
Lucy wanted to find an older person to give flowers to.
"When I first walked up to her she thought I was trying to sell her the flowers, and said she couldn't afford to by them. I told her I was giving them to her and she smiled, said, 'Thank you,' and told me that they were beautiful. She was happy and I was glad I did something to make someone happy," Lucy said.
This semester, the Harbours are teaming up with students again to show the community kindness for National Pay It Forward Day.
Governor Mitch Daniels declared April 28-May 7 as Indiana Pay-It-Forward Week.
This idea was inspired by the movie "Pay It Forward" starring Helen Hunt, Kevin Spacey and Haley Joel Osment.
The Harbours are incorporating Pay It Forward into their lesson plans. They lead and encourage students to be kind to others by performing RAKs.
"We really want to teach the kids that everyone, regardless of their station in life or what kind of person they are, deserves to have someone be kind to them," Jennifer said.
Jennifer read Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" to her students to teach them about how giving can change a person's life, and Paul read Jerry Spinelli's "Maniac Magee."
The teachers used these novels as a discussion starter to get students talking and thinking about RAKs.
The students are then instructed to go out into the community and find someone to perform a RAK for. After doing their RAKs, students write a paper explaining what they did to help someone.
"Everyone donates around the holidays, but very few people make donations during other times of the year," Jennifer said, "This year our goal is to have a food drive from now until Thursday, April 28, then give the food to the Clay County Emergency Food Pantry. We really would like to get the whole school involved, or even the entire community."
The students choose their own RAKs. In the past, students have carried another person's groceries, worked at a soup kitchen and humane societies, given gifts, bought someone a meal, or shoveled snow.
Sixth-grader Tyler McNabb shoveled
"Last year Hannah Dawes, who was a sixth-grader, bought groceries for a woman. She ended up spending $88," said Paul.
Paul also explained that Charley Johnson, an Australian man who finances and manufactures purple and white pay it forward bracelets for the foundation, sent Paul 1,000 bracelets for students. The bracelets help students remind people they help to pay it forward. After a student completes a good deed and goes unrewarded, the student is to give the bracelet to the person they helped. The recipient then has to wear the bracelet until they find someone to do a good deed for and pass the bracelet to.
The teachers say they want to make the students more conscious of doing good deeds and the needs of others.
Sixth-grader Cameron Carrol and her father helped their neighbors by chopping a very large tree branch that fell during a storm into pieces. Previously, the neighbor attempted to use his own chainsaw to break the branch apart and remove it, but it was so thick the tree branch broke the chainsaw and the neighbor couldn't afford to purchase a new one.
While the neighbor was on vacation in Las Vegas, the Carrol's took their poll saw outside on a snowy late December day and spent two hours chopping up the branch.
Cameron said when her neighbor returned he was very thankful.
"It was pretty fun and nice to help someone. He came to our house smiling and thanking us," said Cameron.
Since chopping the branch, Cameron and her father have been planning a trip to Riley Children's Hospital. They plan to visit with the children, read them a book, and bring toys.
The majority of the students who participate in the RAK assignments choose to continue helping others after their assignment is done.
The Harbours have 130 students each. If each performs a good deed, 260 people will be positively affected by this project. If the chain continues the number grows exponentially.
"If everyone just did one nice thing, we could involve the entire community," Jennifer said.