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Students bring kindness into the classroom

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  • | 5:00 a.m. November 5, 2009
  • Sarasota
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Aidan Wickline wore a smile that could melt even the Grinch’s heart. The kindergartner was standing in the middle of his classmates at Southside Elementary when his teacher, Illeana Manzano, asked him to define kindness.

“Kindness is picking someone up when they fall,” Aidan said. “You say, ‘Are you OK?’ If they are really hurt, you take them to the clinic for help.”

Kindness can also mean sharing toys and reading to one another, two things that Manzano’s and Sue Arden’s classes are practicing for their Fairy Kindness project. The kindergartners are currently acting as caretakers for fairy babies, which were originally rocks, but were transformed into fairy babies after being hand-painted.

“The fairy babies were brought to the classroom by the ‘Fairy Queen of the Forest,’ Chanel Byrd, who has been visiting Southside classes for the past few years,” Arden said. “She shows up and surprises the kids. She’s just been precious. She tells the students she needs someone to take care of the babies to make them strong.”

Byrd asks the kindergarteners to do two things: Read to the fairy babies and teach them kindness through example.

“It really keeps them on their toes,” Arden said. “They are watching out, looking for ways to instill kindness into the fairies, and it’s becoming a habit, not just a project.”

Fourth-grade students are collecting new and gently used books and donating them to Habitat for Humanity families as part of a project started by the Sarasota Reading Council. The books will be placed on bookshelves in four new homes.

Sarah Mikus is donating 12 books that she has outgrown, two of which were once her favorites: “The Three Little Kittens” and “A Short Tail.”

“I think they would like these two, and their parents could read to them,” Sarah said. “Oh, and ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ will be good for kids who are ready to go on to chapter books. It makes me feel good that I’m doing things for other people, and this is a neat project.”

Olivia Clark is donating her Judy Blume and Junie B. Jones books.

“It’s fun, and I get to help kids who are learning to read,” Olivia said. “I love Judy Blume books, because they are about siblings who try to outdo each other, but they are also books where you learn things.”

First-graders are showing kindness by crafting cards for seven children with cancer at the Children’s Cancer Center, in Tampa.

That kindness project was born out of teacher Amy Pedler’s volunteering for the Life of Riley Foundation, started by Southside parent Kelly Saba, who lost her daughter, Riley, to brain cancer.

“It’s something I’ve volunteered with every year,” Pedler said. “The kids have talked about how their grandpa has cancer or their mommy has breast cancer. The children who we’re helping are kids Kelly would try to help.”

But the handmade cards these first-graders are sending wish the patients more than the typical “get well.”
“We’re not focusing on sickness,” Pedler said. “We’re sending stuffed animals and magazines, telling jokes — we just want to brighten their day.”

First-grader Elisabeth Strom plans to insert a few varieties of the “Why did the chicken cross the road?” joke into her cards.

“We will send some cards to these little kids and big kids that have cancer,” Elisabeth said. “Every single class in the first grade has picked one child. The cards will make them happy.”

Contact Lorent Mayo at [email protected].


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