Elementary school’s ‘Week of Wonder’ spreads message of kindness

ST. GEORGE Students and staff of Riverside Elementary gathered in the school’s cafeteria Friday morning to participate in an assembly that focused on choosing kindness.

Students at Riverside Elementary gather in the school cafeteria to participate in an assembly to end their “Week of Wonder,” St. George, Utah, Nov. 17, 2017 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

The assembly was the culmination of the school’s “Week of Wonder,” which was based on the book “Wonder” written by Raquel Jaramillo under the pen name R.J. Palacio. A movie adaptation of the book with the same name opens in theaters Friday.

Wonder is the story of a 10-year-old boy named Auggie who was born with distorted facial features caused by an anomoly in his DNA. Though Auggie is bullied throughout the book because of the way he looks the book’s overwhelming message is to “choose kind.”

The book introduces a quote by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer:

If you have a choice between being right and being kind, choose kind.

It is that message of kindness that the students and staff at Riverside chose to embrace throughout the week.

Riverside Elementary is a “Leader in Me” school, said Principal Burke Staheli. The Leader in Me program was developed by educators in concert with FranklinCovey and draws on the principals found in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” written by Stephen R. Covey.

For the past two years the school has focused on what a leader is, but this year Staheli wanted to focus on what a leader does.

Using “choose kind” as their guide, each grade level from kindergarten to fifth grade chose a project aimed at making the world a better place.

Collected donations line the walls of Riverside Elementary as part of their “Week of Wonder,” St. George, Utah, Nov. 17, 2017 | Photo by Hollie Reina, St. George News

Students collected old crayons to melt down and make new crayons for sick kids; gathered pet toys and food to donate; collected paper supplies for the local soup kitchen; made fleece blankets for cancer patients; created Christmas stockings for senior citizens living in residential care; orchestrated a clothing drive; and collected 4,505 items of food to donate.

At Friday’s assembly, wearing matching shirts that read “choose kind,” each grade presented its project and performed a song that related to friendship and kindness.

“This is the best day of school I have ever had,” Staheli said, adding that in his 17 years as a school principal he has never been more proud.

Throughout the week, students had the opportunity to learn from the book about what it means to be a friend, to not judge others on appearance and to be kind.

“It’s touched everyone,” Staheli said. “It’s touched families, it’s changed kids, they won’t forget it,” Staheli said.

Prior to the assembly students gathered in the schoolyard and shaped themselves into the words “choose kind.” A photo was taken which will be shared on social media. Staheli hopes the photo and the messages go viral, he said.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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