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Students learn skills to carry into life

By Brenda Sexton

The Courier-Herald

Thunder Mountain Middle School teacher Kristie Axelson said it warms her heart to hear her sixth-grade Life Skills students “get it” - the life in Life Skills.

“You never know what kind of impact you have as a teacher. This has had an impact,” Axelson said.

Axelson is talking about the 30 students' latest assignment to take what they've learned about being kind and giving and spread it beyond the classroom doors.

“The main goal in this class is to take the lessons they learn out into the real world,” Axelson said.

Axelson started the assignment by talking with students about positive character traits like honesty, generosity, kindness and having a good work ethic, then kept building.

She showed students the 2000 movie “Pay It Forward,” about a youth who takes his social studies teachers' assignment to think of something to change the world and put it into action. In the movie, the student comes up with the notion to pay a favor not back, but forward. He decides to repay good deeds with new good deeds. His efforts to make good on his idea bring a positive change in the lives of himself, his mother and his teacher and even more people outside their circle.

“The ripple effect of acts of kindness is when you do a random act of kindness for someone and then they do one for someone else,” student Chase Dolliver said.

In conjunction, Axelson discussed the theory of random acts of kindness with the class.

Students said a random act can be as simple as a smile in someone's direction to as big as aiding the homeless.

Many of the students went home and helped clean house or took care of their chores without being reminded. Part of the project was to document their acts of kindness either in a scrapbook, poster, PowerPoint presentation, group presentation or art project to share with classmates.

Students said they feel good after helping someone. Just talking about it in class has made them more conscious of it outside the classroom.

“I think it's changed the whole room,” John Schmidt said. “We're more kind to each other.”

“I think some of us were selfish (when the project started),” Emily Hagglund said. “It taught us to give more than take more.”

“I think this was a good experience. It tells you about the world. You kind of have to help your community or the world or your town,” Kyle Durrant said.

The project, many said, helped them see their small act as part of a larger picture.

“Eventually it will help the world somehow,” Sara Capley said.

Cory Johnson said at their age, sometimes kids don't think they can have that kind of impact.

“Kids can change the world by doing their part,” he said.

“We do them all the time, but you don't think about them as random acts of kindness,” Melea Rhodes said. “You don't really think you're doing them, like smiling at someone that's having a bad day.”

“Even small things like being a friend can make a difference,” Jesse Hansen said.

Thursday and Friday the students were working diligently on personal Valentines they planned to share with residents at High Point Village during a luncheon Tuesday. In addition to sharing their cards, Axelson hoped they would share conversations and their lives.

“You go the extra mile for kids and hope they reach the goal,” she said. “I tell them every day if you don't apply what you learn in this classroom in the real world you haven't learned what you were suppose to.”

Brenda Sexton can be reached at bsexton@courierherald.com.

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