Sharing Kindness Through Art

Annual Contest is a Story of Success

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Mike Bismeyer, Theresa Melville, Principal Kathryn White, Honorable Mention Winner of the Poster Contest Molly, and Lisa Radesco at WS Mount Elementary.

The “I HEART KINDNESS” coloring contest and new this year for older students, the poster contest, inspired over 3,000 entries. Many teachers only sent the best entries from their schools, so a lot more than 3,000 kids were thinking, talking, and creating art about kindness. Thank you to all parents, teachers, administrators, and United Against Bullying (UAB) Coordinators who introduced the contests to the kids in their community.

Science has proven how kindness makes everyone – the doer, the receiver, and the bystanders – feel happy. Practicing kindness is considered to be the psychological opposite to bullying or victimization, and increases empathy in terms of Social Emotional Learning (SEL). “Qualities like self-awareness, empathy, peaceful problem solving, and self-regulation need to be learned and practiced over time in order to develop consistent behavioral gains.”

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” – Aristotle

Ongoing Conversations Are Vital

The contests awarded prizes to 13 students and their schools, who received prizes of $500 (winners of each category) or $100 (runner-ups and honorable mention) to support the schools’ initiatives to spread kindness and encourage desired behaviors. The biggest win is the immeasurable number of new conversations that were started because of the contests. Kindness, bullying, resilience, inclusion, empathy are all conversations that need to happen every day in school and at home, so that no child is missed and left to suffer alone because they don’t know how to make it stop.

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Winner of the 5-7-year old Coloring Contest Eloise, Mike Bismeyer, and Buddy the Safety Bear at Fort Langley Elementary School.

UAB coordinators were located close enough to two winning schools to present the contest awards. FRC (Fire Research Corp.) attended a ceremony at WS Mount Elementary School in Stony Brook, NY and Seon presented at Fort Langley Elementary School in Langley, BC. Our UAB Program Advocate, Mike Bismeyer, Seon, attended and presented at both ceremonies, sharing his bullying story and reminding students that “Kindness is Cool.” Seeing the joy on the faces of the students when they receive their prizes and their school is awarded the BIG check is the icing on the cake, the star on the tree – the culmination of everything that goes into a North American-wide contest.

Coloring Contest Winner Creates Lasting Messages

One school has had a winner, second prize winner, and an honorable mention in UAB’s art contests over the years. Kapolei Middle School, HI, with help from their art teacher, Daryle Mishnia, has used the school’s awards to purchase 4’ x 8’ boards for murals to be hung inside and outside of the school buildings. The murals are of positive messages, messages to inspire kindness, and quotes from Martin Luther King, Ghandi, music heroes, etc. The award from this year’s winner will fund the purchase of supplies to create murals for the last remaining building.

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Art students from Kapolei Middle School, HI, proud of the murals they created.

The process of creating the murals has some students choosing the slogans and other students creating the artwork. Sometimes the murals are done individually, most often in pairs, and sometimes 3-4 students on a mural with one student acting as art director. The experience of working together builds on their social emotional skills: working through ideas together, discussing and communicating kindness and bullying issues, deciding on the style of each mural, developing friendships, and feeling proud of their work once it’s hung for everyone to see.

A Common Message for All Cultures

As a cultural response to bullying in schools, student groups in Hawaii are encouraged to actively “Grow Pono,” to create a welcoming and safe environment for everyone at their school. E Ola Pono means to live with respect for, and in harmony with, everyone and everything around you. To live Pono is to always strive to do what is right for others and the environment. It is “WE versus “ME” thinking. Living Pono is a universal concept that stretches way beyond Hawaii’s shores.

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Pono sounds like respect, kindness, empathy, connection – the emotional skills so important for everyone to learn, so important for all people, young and old, to manage our stressful world, to be successful, and ultimately to be happy. Giving students the gift of time to talk and share their experiences, engage in creative expression, role-play, reinforce, and develop positive habits will end bullying.

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Written by Teresa Lynne, Program Coordinator, United Against Bullying