4th Graders Kindle Kindness in the Classroom, Community

With the Thanksgiving holiday bringing friends and family together this week, it’s easy to find cheery and generous spirits around town. And one group of elementary schoolers is working to keep the kindness coming.

            At Kenneth W. Culbert Elementary School, 24 fourth-grade students are working on an initiative they’ve dubbed the Acorn Project to encourage kindness. The philanthropists-in-training have been getting their direction in the classroom of 26-year educator Heidi Clark, who said her students are working to spread kindness across four venues—in school, in the classroom, within their families and in the community. They’ve been doing that by writing letters and giving treats to the people they find in those settings, including other teachers, classmates, parents and local elected officials.

            Clark said the project began when she brought an acorn to class.

“A little acorn can grow into something bigger …  a little act of kindness can grow into something bigger,” she said. “We’re all different but we should all be kind. A little bit of kindness goes a long way.”

            In the community, seven of the students visited the Hamilton Town Council during its Nov. 18 meeting to give members gift bags and to see the government proceedings in action. Mayor David Simpson said the project “shows what kids are capable of if they’re taught in the right direction.”

            Fourth-grader Chloe Sanders said that experience “felt really nice.” 

            “I’ve learned that being kind rocks,” she said.

Clark’s students have also sent their gift bags to the Hamilton Volunteer Fire Department, the Purcellville Volunteer Fire Department, the Purcellville Police Department, the Purcellville Library, the Hamilton postmaster and the Loudoun County Animal Shelter.

            The students also worked to send thank you notes to all the teachers at Culbert Elementary. Next month, they’ll even create one teacher spotlight each day that will air on their morning announcement video.

Clark said the project is catching on in all of Culbert and that in her own classroom, she’s seen kindness like never before, and frequently hears her students tell each other to “be the acorn.”

            This week, the students worked on short videos for their family members, which Clark emailed to their parents. Their final task will be to find ways of showing gratitude within the confines of the classroom. They’ll work on that when they’re back from Thanksgiving break.

While the project is coinciding with Thanksgiving, Clark said that wasn’t the intent. Rather, she said she’s hoping the project lasts the entire year.

“I think you should be grateful all year long,” she said. “It’s really more than just the month of November.”

Fourth-grader Kate Drosos said the project has taught her and her friends a lot about the importance of expressing gratitude and being nice to others in all situations.

            “We just want to make sure that everybody knows that kindness is the way to go,” she said. “I think that everybody deserves some kindness.”

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Kenneth W. Culbert Elementary fourth graders Myah Burciaga, Adeline Jensen and Kate Drosos show one of the Acorn Project posters they worked on just before Thanksgiving break. [Patrick Szabo/Loudoun Now]
Kenneth W. Culbert Elementary fourth-grade teacher Heidi Clark and her class take a break from working on their Acorn Project, which is designed to help them spread kindness in school, in the community and in their families. [Patrick Szabo/Loudoun Now]

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