GREENFIELD – Third graders at J.B. Stephens Elementary School know a thing or two about kindness, and they’re hoping it’s contagious.
Mandy King’s class – or as they call themselves, “The Kindness Cougars”— have been researching, reporting, marketing and designing ways to spread kindness in their school through a T-shirt project.
Bright yellow shirts were created last week at Organic Robot Designs in downtown Greenfield, and orders are being placed so anyone in the school can sport the logo the class designed.
The T-shirt design: A gold and blue cougar paw print with “J.B. Way, Respectful, Responsible, Kind, Cougars.”
The entrepreneurial project has taught lessons in both business and life.
“You gain more friends from being kind than by being mean,” said Hudson Cary, who created the logo with a lot of feedback from his peers on the design team.
The more people wear it and believe in the motto, the more likely they’ll be to treat others with respect, Cary said.
“If you’re wearing the shirt and you’re bullying someone, you don’t deserve to wear the shirt.”
Designers came up with three options and presented them to their principal and assistant principal, who selected one. A marketing team has been spreading the word through posters and newsletters; students even spoke to every classroom about the project. They even have an online store and keep track of sales.
“It represents the J.B. Way and it’s to make other kids follow the J.B. Way,” said Finn McCoy.
“Kindness is important because you can do a lot more things by being kind than by not being kind,” said Caroline Martensen.
The end goal: raise enough money through T-shirt sales to buy each child at J.B. Stephens Elementary School a book about kindness to bring home and share with their families.
But they have a “what if” goal in mind too – if they can’t raise enough money for each student, then each teacher will receive two books on kindness for their classroom libraries.
Vinny Sweet said kindness is important “so we can all get along and be friends.”
“It would just be good for our school to be kind,” Norah Hartley added.
Students took a special field trip to downtown Greenfield last week to screen print their own shirts and eat lunch at Lincoln Square Pancake House – a treat from the principals for all their hard work. Lincoln owner Costas Stylianou spread a little kindness himself by giving the school a deal on their meals.
Charlie Vetters, owner of Organic Robot, said he was impressed with the students and their diligence to research the business process. He not only helped them press their own shirts, but he also added a special touch by placing their school room number on their sleeves. He even donated stickers to each student with the logo on it.
“Anybody can print T-shirts, but this is what makes it really cool,” he said of the community service project. “This is what makes the job fulfilling.”
King has been teaching at J.B. for six years and has enjoyed this year’s class.
“I like to do things that get them working together collectively and thinking outside the box,” she said, adding that the kindness idea was all theirs. “I wanted to do something big, something that would help other people.”
Since third graders are the oldest in their building, students have enjoyed traveling back to their old classrooms and speaking to the younger students about their project. Teachers, in turn, have been overwhelmingly supportive, King said.
“They’ve gotten a lot of praise from the J.B. community,” she said. “I couldn’t be more proud of them. They’re a special class.”
To learn more about the project or to donate, visit https://jbstephensmerch.itemorder.com/shop/home/. The online store will be open through Dec. 3 in order for the shirts to be processed, printed and delivered to the school prior to Christmas.