Brownstown elementary students express gratitude by ‘looking for the good’
Updated: Mar 14, 2019
By Jessica D’Alfonso For The News-Herald Nov 20, 2018
At Wegienka Elementary School in Brownstown Township, students have been sharing thoughts of gratitude and thankfulness — one Post-It at a time — as part of their “Look for the Good Project.”
The program, which began Nov. 5, heavily emphasizes practicing gratefulness, allowing students to articulate who and what matters in their lives.
Student Council Advisor Christy Schultz said the program ties in perfectly after their October anti-bullying campaign. Instead of focusing primarily on teaching children how to deal with bullies, she said, school leaders decided they wanted students to highlight expressing gratitude. Schultz said the program is a means to stress “treating people with kindness and being grateful.”
The “Look for the Good Project” is a Connecticut-based nonprofit organization started in 2016 by Anne Kubitsky. Originally started as a public art project in 2011, Kubitksy began writing “What Make YOU Grateful?” on self-addressed postcards which she left in various public areas, according to the website. From 2011 to 2015, she said, over 22,000 people shared messages of gratitude with her.
Kubitsky’s public art project eventually blossomed into a nationwide non-profit organization. The website said the Look for the Good Project has so far serviced over 120,000 children in 30 states who have written nearly two million messages of gratitude. The program believes that “gratitude changes mindsets, reduces violence, and improves everything.”
One of the most significant parts of the program is the Gratitude Wall. Every morning, the students at Wegienka write something they are grateful for on a sticky note. The notes are then put on a large board in the hallway. Some of the notes on the board include, “I am grateful for my mom and dad. They help me when I’m hurt,” and “I’m grateful for school,” signed with a smiley face. By the end of the program on Nov. 22, Wegienka expects to have over 5,000 messages of gratitude on their Gratitude Wall.
Students are heavily encouraged to have an active role in the program. For example, the student council, which includes 5th grade students Brett Lukitsch, Josh Megyesi, Brooklynn Bartos, and Jessica Lyons, help out by collecting these notes of gratitude in the morning and adding them to the wall.
The children also exercise their gratefulness by writing “You Matter” letters to someone in their life, which they later share with the subject. One second grader, Aza’riah Houston, shared her letter of gratitude about her teacher, Rachel Lemon, with the class: “When I wanted to write good, you helped me so much. You are the best thing that ever happened to me.” Another second grade student, Nicoletta Silvera, wrote about her sister: “You sacrificed your time to play with me, even if you wanted the phone or iPad. She is always there for me, even if I’m sick. I love her.”
The program places a heavy emphasis on encouraging children to express gratitude toward others. In addition to the letters of gratitude, the students make use “kindness” cards. They pass along a card which reads “You Matter” on it to those they see performing a kind act, like holding a door open for someone. The receiver of the card writes their initials on it, and passes it on to another student they see performing a kind act, until the card is filled with initials.
The program also includes eight “Grateful Spots” that are placed on the floor throughout the school. Students are encouraged to proclaim what they are grateful for when they stand on them.
According to Schultz, the children were on board with the project from the very beginning.
“We put the (Grateful) Spot down and I invited a kindergartner to come up and they stood on the spot and just yelled out what they were grateful for,” Schultz said. "They get it. So that was really cool.”
There are several academic and life improving benefits to gratefulness, Schultz said.
“Being grateful makes you healthier, happier, smarter,” she said, adding that research shows "if you're grateful before you take a test, you actually do better.”
The Look for the Good Project backs up these claims on its website: “Researchers Dr. Giacomo Bono and Dr. Jeffrey Froh report that by comparison, grateful kids are happier, more satisfied with their lives, more generous, more cooperative, and more likely to use their strengths to better their communities.” The website also notes that children who express gratitude more often “also have higher GPAs, better self-esteem, and are more likely to see the bigger picture.”
Schultz said it's wonderful to see the eagerness of the students to participate in the program, adding that they would like to do the program again next year.
“Kids are just so willing to share what they're grateful for,” she said. "We don't want them to lose that.”