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Children / Colorado Livin' / School

Charmed school: Arvada students trip over themselves to be kind during Scout project

Girl Scouts in Troop 3499 decided to bust a stereotype to earn their “Speak Out” badge, and they knew just what to do.

“It’s like a myth or something that kids are cruel to other kids,” said Abby Reinke, a fourth-grader at Meiklejohn Elementary School in Arvada. “We wanted to prove that kids could be nice to each other.”

Mean behavior is something that bothered all of them.

“We wanted to stop bullying and name-calling,” said fourth-grader Elizabeth Guiducci.

The Scout leader in charge of the project, Deb Guiducci, was surprised to hear this. After all, organizations in Colorado have invested heavily in slowing the spread of mean, including an $8.6 million investment in a bullying-prevention initiative in 2005 by the Colorado Trust.

“I asked how many of them had experienced this, and they all had,” Guiducci said. “Everyone told different stories of things kids had done to them.”

Her daughter, Elizabeth, said it was mostly things like name-calling.

“It doesn’t really feel good, and I don’t like it,” she said Thursday during lunch in the school cafeteria.

The Scouts wanted to create a week of activities focused on being kind and friendly, designed to encourage kids to make new friends and help one another.

“I tried to persuade them not to do a week,” Guiducci said. “I was worried they wouldn’t get the principal’s approval for an entire week. But they were adamant and started brainstorming what each day would be.”

Their creation — Kids Care Week — not only won the approval of Principal Andy Schrant but also received kudos from Susan Payne, executive director of the anti-bullying organization Safe2Tell.

“We could replicate this throughout the state in elementary and middle schools,” she said. “I’m so proud of them. They set a goal to earn this badge, and that sparked them to feel empowered.”

Studies from the Colorado Trust’s bullying-prevention initiative — based on surveys of more than 7,000 students and 1,500 teachers and adults over a two-year period — found that bullying can be prevented by changing the climate and culture of a school. The research also suggested that adults are typically unaware of the amount of bullying that students experience.

The curriculum developed by the Girl Scouts puts a spotlight on the daily “roles and responsibilities of kids to make the school climate better,” Payne said. “If you write a plan like that, kids will make a significant effort to achieve it.”

Kids Care Week, which ended Friday, was such a hit that the principal hopes to make it an annual event. Parts of the program also were rolled out at Fairmount Elementary, where one member of Troop 3499 attends school.

“It’s an organic grassroots movement because it’s coming from the kids, so it has a bit more credibility” for them, Schrant said. “They can recite verbatim what we’d said as adults about bullying, but they just wanted to push their classmates from their comfort zones and to develop more friendships.”

Pay It Forward Day, about doing kind acts for others, became a kindness competition.

“It was hilarious,” said Holly Albright, who teaches sixth grade and sponsors the student council, which is co-sponsoring Kids Care Week. “I had boys fighting over holding the door for people.”

When someone dropped a pencil box, everyone rushed to pick it up.

They also carried each other’s backpacks.

“If you were holding too much stuff, they helped you carry it,” said Girl Scout and fourth-grader Sarah Wittman. “It was great.”

Kyle Zigich, also in fourth grade, really loved Compliment Day. He recently was bitten on the face by his dog and had to go to the hospital to have the wound stitched up. He’s got a 1-inch scar on his cheek.

“A lot of kids were like, ‘You’re really brave.’ The third-graders look up to you,” he said, adding that his teacher kicked off compliment day by telling everyone how brave Kyle had been.

On Thursday, fourth-grader Ryan Jones ran out to the playground with high enthusiasm on Mix It Up Recess Day, where the goal was to play with someone you don’t normally play with.

“It’s great,” he said. “You get to know people better and get out of your comfort zone.”

Payne of Safe2Tell particularly liked Mix It Up Recess.

“It’s like speed dating,” she said “Adults tend to stick to their own groups. We need to set up opportunities for kids to listen to other kids and other groups.”

Then there was Mix It Up Day, on Monday, when kids had to choose someone new to eat lunch with and get to know better.

“Certain personalities are better at this and more willing to go out and accept other people,” Albright said. “Others are shy and don’t want to.”

Elizabeth Guiducci knows this from personal experience.

“Some are kind of shy and hard to talk to,” she said. “They want to hang back and stay with their friends.”

She likes her own method best.

“I say, ‘I’m Elizabeth, and I would like to be your friend.’ ”

Colleen O’Connor

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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  1. WHAT A GREAT STORY!!! And How wonderful it was to read such a heartwarming article first thing in the morning!

    Now, if only EVERYONE could follow the example of the these kids every day, what a beautiful world this would be!

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this wonderful piece!!! A positive article about our future leaders is indeed encouraging! I envision this effort spreading like wildfire!!! Send this article to everyone you know!!! Yay Denver Post for supporting peace, love, compassion and unity!!!
    More, more, more articles like this!

  3. Be nice to people, don’t be mean. Something so easy, even children can understand and follow it.

  4. Love it! Hope some teachers and other school workers who read this will take these back to their schools and give them a try.

  5. Those kids are awesome, no doubt about it! This really needs to be shared among other schools as much as possible. I’m usually sketched out about national implementation of something in schools since it’s usually a well meaning dumb idea, but this happens to be a well meaning good idea. Pass it among scouting troops and let the kids take the lead!

  6. Most of the time, only kids will witness bullying, so what better way to attack the mean problem than by empowering the kids to act differently? Love it!

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