The students at Desert Vista Elementary School are seated on the lawn just beyond the school entrance when one of the Be Kind educators/dancers asks them a question.
“Raise your hand if you’ve ever been made fun of because of your appearance.”
Dozens of hands go up.
The question — and ensuing words of support — were part of the 40-minute Be Kind People Project presentation held at Desert Vista in Apache Junction Sept. 23. The project, which annually reaches 350,000-plus students nationwide and is based in Phoenix, uses dancing, rap music and entertainment to teach kids the 10 Be Kind pledges: Be Encouraging, Be Supportive, Be Positive, Be Helpful, Be Honest, Be Considerate, Be Thankful, Be Responsible, Be Respectful and Be a Friend.
Be Kind has partnered with Desert Vista Elementary School since 2018 and will be at Four Peaks Elementary on Oct. 12 for two assemblies, one in the morning and another in the afternoon.
Desert Vista Principal Pat Smith said she was looking for a way to build character and kindness at the school, and Be Kind fit the bill.
“During the assembly, the Be Kind crew delivers a strong message of how to demonstrate kindness through relatable music, songs and dance that excites and inspires our students and staff,” Smith said.
Smith said Be Kind’s website also allows Desert Vista to promote the messaging to students during classroom time.
The Be Kind hip hop dancers and spoken word artists certainly had the kids’ attention during the assembly. The students clapped and cheered and were responsive when questions were asked. The impact of the presentations? Bo Whittenton, chief kindness officer at Be Kind, said behavior incidents improve by 20% to 40% and academics by 7% to 11% on average for schools working with her organization.
Smith said she’s seen the difference at Desert Vista.
“Being at DVES for the past 10 years, I have had the ability to identify strengths and areas where I wanted to see growth,” she said. “Being familiar with other approaches with building character, I saw students struggle to remember what they were about and little connection for application in daily interactions was being made.
“When we established ourselves as a ‘Be Kind’ school, we knew that it needed to be more than just words being said, we needed to focus on the Be Kind tenets and teach our students what each one meant so they could apply and demonstrate kindness within their classrooms and on campus. Often students approach me and are proud to share how they have demonstrated kindness at Desert Vista. This is proof that it is making a difference,” Smith said.
Editor’s note: Scott Bordow is Apache Junction Unified School District’s director of communications and community engagement.