The second grade classes’ Valentine’s Day parties at Rock Canyon Elementary School in Provo looked a little different this year.
There were still the traditional boxes covered in glitter and handmade valentines scribbled with crayon, but there were also students at computers creating digital valentines for children in hospitals, blankets being tied for refugees and school care kits that would be sent to an orphanage in Mexico.
“These are awesome kids that are so excited to be helping other people and I love their enthusiasm for it,” said Megan Metcalf, a second grade teacher at Rock Canyon Elementary School.
The school’s four second grade classes made a goal to perform 100 acts of kindness per class in the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day. As of Thursday, they’ve collectively done more than 1,000.
Those good deeds were tallied on whiteboards in classrooms and written down and pinned up in the hallway. The acts of kindness ranged from bringing a jacket to a friend, to weaving sleeping mats, to writing nice notes, to watching over a little sibling in the grocery store.
The project began after Metcalf heard about her nephew’s school in Layton doing service projects for refugees at Christmas.
Wanting her students’ Valentine’s Day party to be more about playing bingo and eating sugar, she started researching child-friendly service projects in the area.
“Valentine’s Day is such an interesting day at a school for kids because it’s about getting the valentine’s and eating the candy and cookies,” Metcalf said.
At first, she worried that her students would feel like they were missing out on a more traditional party. Instead, students huddled around the perimeter of the blankets, ready to tie them after she explained what a refugee was and showed them on a map where their work would go. Nearby, on a blackboard, a written message reminded students that “no act of kindness, however small, is wasted.”
Across the four classrooms, students created digital Valentine’s Day cards for children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, along with blankets for refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Bangladesh, and school supply kits to send to refugees and to an orphanage in Mexico.
Metcalfe’s students had done more than 540 acts of kindness by Thursday, and had created 300 digital valentines within two days. Her students are already talking about how they want to extend the project and do 1,000 acts of kindness by the end of the school year.
Lucy Felt, a 7-year-old second grader, created digital valentines with messages like “you’re cool” and “may your Valentine’s Day be filled with love.” Her other good deeds have included helping tie another student’s shoes and playing with others.
She was excited to hear about the goal for her class to do 100 good deeds.
“I thought it would be fun because I’m good at it,” Lucy said.
Parents have also seen the impact. After the project began, Marianne Davis’s second grader, Hazel, cleaned gutters for elderly neighbors and wrote nice notes.
“The 100 acts of kindness is exciting to watch them be nice to other people,” Davis said.
Metcalf started the project weeks ago by reading her students the book “Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed,” which is about a girl who places a bowl of berries on a neighbor’s doorstep and the chain reaction of good deeds it sets off around the world. Afterward, Metcalf’s students brainstormed ideas for acts of kindness that ranged from eating with someone who is alone at lunch to wanting to build houses for the homeless.
For Metcalf, it’s helped her remember that being a teacher is about more than helping her students learn spelling and math; it’s also about teaching them empathy and compassion.
“This is when it feels like I am making a difference,” she said.