Kindness Week, an annual tradition celebrated by students and staff at all three American Academy campuses, took on even greater meaning this year when the school was inspired by Rachel's Challenge …
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Kindness Week, an annual tradition celebrated by students and staff at all three American Academy campuses, took on even greater meaning this year when the school was inspired by Rachel's Challenge and took part in creating “hands of kindness.”
Rachel's Challenge was formed after the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, where Rachel Scott was the first person killed.
“Her vision to start a chain reaction of kindness and compassion is the basis for the mission of Rachel's Challenge: Making schools safer, more connected places where bullying and violence are replaced with kindness and respect; and where learning and teaching are awakened to their fullest. And it works,” according to an excerpt taken from rachelschallenge.org/about-us.
According to a news release, American Academy, which has campuses in Parker and Castle Pines, is committed to a comprehensive focus on social-emotional wellness, and has a large team of student support services professionals, including counselors and social workers, who support students at all three of the school's campuses.
School culture, along with emotional and social health, are just a few of the things that the school's social workers and counselors focus on. Doing a project based on Rachel's hands made sense because it compliments American Academy's long-time AA Manners and AA Character programs, the release said.
“As a social worker, I have always been inspired by Rachel Scott's story. I have followed her story and understood her message and mission found in her journal, as well as the significance of her handprint,” Ginny Rattner, school social worker who took the lead on introducing this project, said in the release.
These handprints were the premise of the project that was introduced during Kindness Week in October at American Academy. All three campuses (Castle Pines, Motsenbocker, and Lincoln Meadows) brought the idea to life in their own way. Several grades were shown a video that explained Rachel's hands and her story, and many students brought their paper cut-out hands home and worked on them with family members.
Rattner and the other mental health professionals went into the middle school classrooms and read Rachel's famous paper on “My codes, My ethics,” which talks about starting a chain reaction of kindness and the concept that it only takes one person to make a difference.
The activity includes students' pictures that represented who they are and personal character traits that stand out to them, and bright-colored stickers on the fingertips. While each student and staff member started with the same outline of a paper hand, each individual created a masterpiece that was uniquely their own.
Teachers and staff were challenged to show extra creativity, and they stepped up to the challenge by producing hands that were made from 3D printers, wood, sewn material, combined with many other creative layers.
Separately, the hands represent each student and staff as individuals, but together as a whole, they represent something greater: a community, a team, and a reminder, the news release said. By sharing in the project, the school gave students and families a head-start in creating their own chain reaction of kindness to pass down to future generations, the release said.
“This was an American Academy team success and the beginning of an everlasting chain reaction of kindness,” Rattner said in the release.
American Academy is a Core Knowledge, K-8, public charter school with a special emphasis on science, technology, engineering, arts and math. For information on the school, go to www.aak8.org.
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