Kindness Missions - Putnam Sentinel
The envelopes received by each Columbus Grove elementary school class containing their "Top Secret" kindness mission. (Photo submitted)

COLUMBUS GROVE — Throughout the past week and into this one, kindergarten through eighth students at Columbus Grove Elementary School have been stealthily conducting secret missions with one important thing in common: kindness.

The idea for ‘Secret Kindness Missions’ came from the All Ohio Counselors Conference that took place during the second week of November. Columbus Grove Guidance Counselors, Brenda Bruce and Mindy Losh attended. One of the presenters spoke on conducting these types of ‘missions’ at their own school, and Bruce took notice.

“So, the presenter, I happened to catch her email at the end of the presentation slides,” Bruce says. “I sent her an email and said, ‘Can you share with me a little bit more about this?’ And, she did. So I just took off with it.”

“Basically, I went into the classrooms and showed a video. Then we talked about how we were going to do a secret kindness mission. I showed them the envelope and said, ‘Some day next week this is going to slide under your door. It’s completely secret. We want to do a random act of kindness for somebody, but we don’t want to take credit for it. So you can’t tell anybody.’ ”

“That even got the excitement going a little bit more. Because they were like, ‘Oh, we have to keep a secret! We get to do a project!’ ”

“We’re trying to teach them a little bit about not always having to be acknowledged or thanked. It’s just as fun to do something nice for somebody, and step back and watch their expression. To know that you did it, but you don’t get the thanks for it.”

“We tied it into Bulldog LEAD, our character campaign. This quarter was all about kindness. We just jumped on it and did this project based learning.”

As Bruce is quick to say, going from an idea received during the second week of November to a fully rolled out program in just a few weeks took nearly everyone in the elementary school working together - teachers, administration, and support staff.

The overcame challenges by folding them into learning opportunities. One example of this involves students writing thank you letters to the local school board members.

“How do you write a letter to somebody when you have no clue what they do.?” Bruce posits. “The teachers really jumped on board. They said, ‘Tell us what each of the board members are in charge of, like curriculum or grounds. And then, they really worked with the kids. Their letters are really personalized.”

With this, Bruce grabs a random letter and begins reading, “ ‘I want to thank you for all you do. Thank you so much for keeping track of our money.’ Because this is [going to] a person on the financial [committee]. “[The teachers] really, really worked with the kids. So, it wasn’t just a ‘thank you.’ They’re really nice letters.”

The goal, however, wasn’t to simply complete a project before winter break. The effort put forth by the school is intended to change behavior over the long term. To instill the idea that acting kindly towards someone is something a person simply does as part of their day-to-day. As Bruce relates, this focus seems to be having an early impact.

“I overheard one of our janitors, Dale Schroeder, he told his wife Vicky, who is our secretary, he said, ‘I got a thank you note from a little girl.’ And, I found out, the little girl, that wasn’t even her target. She went and did that herself.”

“And then, a little boy asked one of the cafeteria ladies if he could wipe the table for her. That wasn’t his target. So, you can tell that it’s just spreading. I’m really proud of the kids. They really stepped into that.”

Having quickly created the program for this year, there are already plans to expand on it for the next school year as well.

“Next year, Mindy [Losh] and have talked, we want to flip this to a K-12. Make bigger missions, possibly community missions for the older kids. I definitely think we’ll do it again. It was really successful.”