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Pennekamp Elementary

Students at MB's Pennekamp Elementary perform random good deeds in hopes of kindling kindness

by Marie Montgomery
Daily Breeze Education Writer

 

They’ve added a fourth "R" to the curriculum at Pennekamp Elementary School in Manhattan Beach: Reading, wRiting, ‘Rithmetic, and Random acts of kindness.

 

The sixth-graders, rulers of the school, are suddenly talking to the second-graders and sharing the game fields with younger students. Some students are sneaking over to their neighbors’ yards to pull weeks or water flowers. Several sent valentines on Tuesday to a convalescent hospital.

 

In all, these 450 students want to perform 10,000 spontaneous good deeds, or 22 random acts of kindness per student, in the month of February.

 

"We wanted it to be almost like a disease, so it would be contagious and spread to other places," said sixth-grader Samantha Tytell, the school’s student body president. "When I do something for somebody else, I feel really happy."

 

Tytell practices what she preaches: In the middle of talking to a reporter Thursday afternoon about the school’s efforts, she saw a younger student fall down nearby. Tytell rushed over to pull her up and bring her to the nurse’s office.

 

Pennekamp students actually didn’t know until recently that they were performing "random acts of kindness," the term coined by a Bakersfield College professor a few years ago in his frustration about random acts of violence.

 

They have always hosted a "Spirit Month" in February, in which the entire school joins together to perform good deeds and fulfill the school motto of learning "Habits of the Heart."

 

But Tytell recently met Spring de Haviland, a local volunteer who is promoting the National Random Acts of Kindness Week declared by Congress last year. De Haviland told her that Spirit Month and Random Acts of Kindness Week would go perfectly hand in hand.

 

It’s wonderful - I think the parents are wondering why (the students) haven’t done this before." Said Pennekamp teacher Mike Warner, whose students are connecting a giant paper chain around the classroom with one link for each good deed performed.

 

Second-grader Matthew Reeley said he and his classmates "cleaned up a lot of trash on the playground that wasn’t even ours."

 

"It’s really helped our school," said sixth-grader Alison Beatty. "All the students know that they’re needed because they’re a part of this."

 

Andrea Keilberg, a sixth-grader who plays clarinet, asked her fellow musicians earlier this week to perform a mini-concert for the first-graders and show them how their instruments worked.

 

"I thought of it because Mr. Adams takes time to teach us, and I thought it might be nice for us to teach the younger kids," Keilberg said.

 

Tytell said the best acts of kindness are the ones that are done in secret, such as taking out the trash at home without being asked.

 

"We’re not doing this for the publicity. . . We want it to be shown so other people will catch on," Tytell said.

 

Daily Breeze, Friday, February 17, 1995

 

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