12 Dec Advent Students Give Gifts of Gratitude
Advent students are asked to practice gratitude within their classrooms each day. In February 2017, around the Valentine’s Day holiday, the students in Fourth and Sixth Grades were asked to put their recognition of gratitude into practice through the ThinkGive program. Instead of bringing in treats for the class, with the introduction of this program, the students began discussing what they are grateful for, giving thanks instead of giving candy.
“We started bringing the program into our classroom by encouraging students to show their appreciation for each other, specifically through kind words and actions,” Fourth Grade teacher Jeanne Cannarella said. “The goal was to recognize how small acts of kindness impact our lives and those around us, bettering our communities. The students quickly learned that kindness is contagious, and can spread as a gift in itself.”
ThinkGive is a Massachusetts based organization that partners with schools across the globe, inspiring young people to turn giving into a way of life. It is a non-profit, social emotional program, aligning within Advent’s mission, values, and social emotional curriculum.
ThinkGive began at Advent with 15 prompts for students, one for each week of the program. The prompt at the beginning and end of the program was, “Give to Yourself” (physical, emotional, mental needs, and how we can take care of them). This particular prompt showed students that humans need to be kind to themselves in order to be kind to others, and to spread kindness in their communities.
Throughout the program, students discovered how to give to their community, to an acquaintance, to the environment, and to someone they have never even met. Students were encouraged to find new ways of expressing gratitude, which was sometimes a challenge.
“The ThinkGive program pushed Advent students out of their comfort zone, into their courage zone,” Cannarella said. “We continued to reinforce and use that language throughout the program, encouraging students to continually take risks.”
The class recorded their gift each week on an online portal through the ThinkGive site, creating a character for themselves that asked reflective questions each time they logged in.
Questions such as, “Did today feel different than giving to prior days? If so, how?”; “Did you find it was easy or hard to give to yourself? How?,” prompted students to reflect on their experience during the program.
The range of the students’ answers depended on their individual experiences in giving. For instance, when one student was asked to comment on how she gave to herself, she exclaimed, “When I tried a new sport, I thought I wasn’t going to do well, but I told myself I could do it and I actually did it!”
Each week, faculty introduced videos, quotes, literacy reading responses, and activities centered around the prompt of the week, which was provided by the ThinkGive organization. Throughout the process there were four simple rules about the gifts:
Small and Simple
In total, with the Fourth Grade and Sixth Grade teachers partnering in making gifts with their students, The Advent School gave 166 gifts of gratitude last year. The program inspired students and teachers to incorporate small acts of kindness into their everyday life, and led Cannarella to become a teacher ambassador for the ThinkGive organization. She engages schools by answering questions about how she implemented it in her classroom, and supports the efforts of the program in spreading awareness.
Cannarella is featured on the ThinkGiveProject.org website, describing why the program inspired her to become involved:
“The ThinkGive Challenge inspired my students to become change makers through authentic acts of kindness. Children pushed themselves outside their comfort zones into their courage zones to find opportunities to give back to the community. Students developed a strong intrinsic motivation to make a positive impact in their own lives and the lives of others.”
The ThinkGive program also led to other initiatives of giving in Advent’s Fourth Grade curriculum. While learning about the dangerous conditions of the drinking water in Flint, Michigan, the students recognized an opportunity for giving. They initiated an electronics drive and bake sale to raise funds and aid those affected by the water crisis.
Through these initiatives and parent donations, the students raised $1,542.90, with all funds benefitting the Child Health and Development department at the Community Foundation of Greater Flint, which focuses on medical and educational services for students with lead exposure.
“Through the ThinkGive program, students recognized that they could have an impact on their community,” Cannarella said. “This recognition then spread to the larger community, identifying a need to give back to children in Flint, Michigan who had been affected by the water crisis, which then spearheaded that fundraiser. It was a wonderful domino effect, and a meaningful experience for the children to engage in.”
Advent’s Fourth and Sixth Grade faculty are planning to incorporate lessons from the ThinkGive program into their curriculum again this year, and will continue to partner with the organization in raising awareness of its mission.
To learn more about ThinkGive, please visit their website: thinkgiveproject.org.