STARKVILLE, Miss.--In support of an ongoing anti-bullying initiative at a local middle school, nearly two dozen Mississippi State University education majors planted seeds of kindness, literally and figuratively.
Early in the spring semester, Armstrong Middle School sixth-graders initiated an Acts of Kindness, or A-OK, campaign to promote caring and empathetic behavior among themselves and their peers. Students write short messages about treating someone kindly or receiving kind treatment, and teachers post the notes in the cafeteria.
When Karen S. Brown of MSU's College of Education saw an article promoting the middle school's A-OK initiative, she decided her teachers-in-training should get involved. The curriculum, instruction and special education instructor teaches a middle-level literacy class for elementary education majors concentrating in middle school education.
Brown said she decided to use the topic -- whether acts of kindness can stop bullying -- and develop it for argumentative essays, one of the skills middle school teachers emphasize in their classrooms.
"Our students learned how to teach argumentative writing through those essays, and it blossomed from there," she said.
Brown contacted AMS counselor Karla Morgan to seek a partnership between the class and the A-OK group. The education majors brainstormed ideas to promote more kindness at AMS, and the "seeds of kindness" campaign was born.
MSU students met with the A-OK students on Tuesday [April 15], and the future teachers shared their essays about how kindness impacts bullying behaviors. Then, the entire group potted plants to be placed in front of AMS to remind all students to be kind to one another.
"Ultimately we're trying to teach them and also spread the message: Kindness doesn't have to be just person-to-person; it can be person-to-community or person-to-earth," Morgan said. "There's a lot of ways to express kindness."
The MSU students agreed their actions -- writing essays about kindness' impacts on bullying, interacting with the A-OK students and participating in the nationwide anti-bullying effort -- were meaningful .
Southaven senior Elizabeth A. Anderson, said working with students to emphasize kindness and stop bullying was very rewarding.
"I think what we're doing is a wonderful thing, and I hope the kids see this should not only be at Armstrong" she said. "It should be in schools all over Mississippi and then grow to be all over the nation."
Emphasizing kindness offers students and teachers a positive way to address the negative dynamic of bullying, said senior Whitney A. Williams of Collierville, Tenn. A positive dynamic throughout the school will deter bullying behavior and encourage more acts of kindness, she explained.
"The students in the A-OK club are the core group of students that is making the kindness project go here at the school," Brown said. "We're coming together, we're sharing and we're planting acts of kindness."
Visit http://educ.msstate.edu to discover more about MSU's College of Education,.
Learn more about MSU at http://msstate.edu.