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GOSPORT — The February word of the month was “empathy” at Gosport Elementary School, where students focused on kindness while learning the importance of understanding how other people feel by imagining walking in their shoes.Principal Carol Watson challenged the 150 kids at her school to undertake random acts of kindness to help others. They wrote their name and what they had done on a half-inch-wide strip of construction paper, and each became a link in a colorful chain the students stretched across the school playground Feb. 26.The chain was long: 1,847 blue, green, pink, orange, yellow, purple and red links representing 1,847 kind acts by children.“I noticed that my mom was having a hard time with the baby. I helped by feeding her, all by myself,” a third grader wrote.“My brother couldn’t get his glove on,” another third grade link said. “I helped by pushing the glove on.”Bringing in wood for the fire, carrying groceries from the car, shoveling snow, rounding up chickens and even washing dishes were among the acts of kindness in the third grade chain.Each classroom made a chain for the Kindness Challenge, then brought them to the playground that Friday afternoon. Teachers stapled them together as the students spread out into a giant circle, each one holding a part of the chain.On command, they chanted “kindness matters” during the event celebrating the completion of the chain.A reporter and videographer from WTHR were there for a news story, and a second grade boy proclaimed he was going to be on national television.Ten-year-old Amanda Bradley, a fourth grader, said one of her links was for helping her cousin “clean up a really, really big mess in the living room.” Her 5-year-old sister, Alexa, “she’s the one over there with the polka-dot coat and pink hair,” helped out, too, she said.Second graders Vivian Bryant and Madi Anglemyer also contributed links to the chain. “I helped pick up the toys after recess,” Vivian said. Madi, dressed in suede cowgirl boots and a fancy lace skirt, said she helped a classmate find a page in a book during class.Small kindnesses to be sure, but significant in a world often lacking in empathy.Gosport Elementary sits atop of a hill in the Owen County town of 800. There is one class for each grade level, from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade. Online learning is a challenge in this rural area, where dependable internet connections are rare. Students have been attending school in person most of this school year.Watson is proud of the school she had led for 18 years, which has an “A” letter grade from the state. Gosport Elementary was named one of the top Title One schools in Indiana last year.She attributes the school’s success in part to a character education program implemented about 15 years ago. CLASS — Connecting Learning Assures Student Success — focuses on a different character trait each month that is integrated into academic lessons to making learning meaningful and engaging.Watson said recognizing the struggles of others and just lending a hand is an important lesson to impart. “After all, this world can always use more kindness,” Watson said, standing in the center of the circle of students.
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