For David, it took five smooth stones to change a nation and defeat Goliath.
Denise Liby’s class has 19 smooth stones and they’re ready to use them to bring small changes to local community members.
Students in Denise Liby’s third grade class at McKinley Elementary School recently painted rocks with the word “kindness.”
Liby and generous partners are challenging the students to give the rocks away whenever they do something kind for someone and the recipient is expected to pay it forward and pass on the rock.
“The kids have loved the project. They’ve been very excited,” Liby said.
She has told them that they can give it to anyone they know whenever they do something kind for that person.
“It could be if you’re helping somebody at home by doing a chore, or if you’re out and about and you pick up something for someone when you see it’s on the ground,” Liby told them. “You give the rock to them and then they do something nice for someone else and give it to them. It’s a pay-it-forward idea.”
Partnering with donors
The rock project started with Ed Becker, former star of “The Famous Ed Beckerini Show,” as Liby called it, which was a one-man show that went to local schools. Becker, of Abilene, became friends with Liby because of his workouts at Impact Sports and Fitness where Liby works in the evenings.
For nearly two years, Becker has given various items to Liby’s class including magnets, card-size boxes with clip lids (which Liby said the students especially like), matchbox cars, wind chimes, fancy pens and pencil sharpeners, mechanical pencils and small notebooks, calculators, drawstring bags and animal figurines. His most recent gift was a collection of rocks.
“Didn’t they turn out to be super nice rocks?” Liby asked the class on Wednesday morning. The class responded in the affirmative.
After Liby received the rocks from Becker, an individual who requested to remain anonymous told Liby that she had funds from a local church’s Pay It Forward program and would like to use them to do something for Liby’s class. The woman had suggested kindness coins but Liby told her about the rocks, which they realized were much cheaper than purchasing coins and the rocks gave the opportunity for students to be creative in their artwork.
The anonymous individual bought little drawstring bags at Hobby Lobby to hold each rock. The students are also putting in a printed statement that says “Do something kind today, then give this rock away” and the student’s name.
Liby started by washing and drying the rocks. Then the students painted them with bright white acrylic paint “because it makes all the other acrylic colors pop” Liby said. The next day they used colored paints and Q-tips which the individual provided as well as paintbrushes Liby already had, to decorate the rocks with their own designs.
For example, Nolan Haslouer who is a fan of the Disney movie “Moana” painted a blue swirl that looks like the heart of Te Fiti which is a prominent symbol in the film. Jaralyn Rush who kindly waters her mother’s plants, decorated her rock with a sunflower, a rose and a bird. Alex Kamhi, another student in Liby’s class, painted a rainbow and a heart.
“Whatever first came up into my mind, I put down on the rock,” Kamhi said. “I like to paint.”
After the students finished painting their designs, Liby came to her classroom several times on a weekend to spray the rocks with five to seven layers of Modge Podge provided through the individual. When the second layer of Modge Podge was still wet, Liby stuck a cutout of the printed word “kindness” onto each stone. Last week she turned the rocks over and gave the other side a good spraying.
“It was no problem to come back to the room to spray the rocks especially with everything donated,” Liby said. “I really wanted those little ‘kindness’ stickers to stay on.’”
giving it away
Early in the process, the woman who had the Pay It Forward funds paid a visit to Liby’s class where she partnered with Liby in speaking to the students about the value of kindness and the importance of the project. Another day, she left treats with Liby: two chocolate chip cookies and a juice box for each student.
Liby explained to the class that the woman wanted to give to them because she knew they were going to give to others.
“I said ‘See how she was kind to us?’” Liby recounted. “Helping them think outside themselves is hard. Thinking of others is even hard for adults sometimes.”
Liby said it is developmentally typical for third-graders to be “pretty ego-centric” but projects like this one help students to start thinking about how they can bless others, rather than simply getting their own needs met.
She said she hopes the kindness rocks continue to be passed on and that some of them come back around to the students’ circles of awareness so they can see the ripple effect.
“If they’re at church, the pool, or the library over the summer and they hear someone talking about ‘this rock’, that would be cool,” Liby said. “And if an adult sees this kindness coming their way from a child, I think it could have a great impact.”
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