Curran Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) Principal Kim Taylor and School Adjustment Counselor Jenna Callahan know that kindness is a concept that even the youngest members of our society can understand. At the beginning of the 2019/2020 school year, they sought a curriculum to compliment the school rules that were already in place for the 285 pre-school and kindergarten students who attend ECEC:
I am SAFE.
I am RESPONSIBLE.
I am RESPECTFUL.
The Choose To Be Nice curriculum was the perfect piece to fit in their kindness puzzle! Though the curriculum was initially created in a way that was geared towards older students, it was easily adapted to an age appropriate level for what are now our youngest Choose To Be Nice kids. In the fall of 2019, Taylor and Callahan secured a grant that would bring Choose To Be Nice to ECEC. They couldn’t wait to present it to the little ones!
And then COVID-19 hit.
Just as the pair was getting ready to roll out the curriculum, a world-wide pandemic put a halt to in-person schooling throughout the country. As students across the nation were swept into the safety of their homes, the challenge of providing a remote education weighed on educators. Most “extra” initiatives were brushed to the wayside in the push to implement a virtual curriculum.
In a time where children are no doubt frightened and confused, Taylor and Callahan recognized that kindness is a lesson that should not only be taught, but greatly focused on. Thus, instead of putting the Choose To Be Nice curriculum on the back burner while they navigated the challenges of remote and hybrid learning, they implemented the program with full gusto in the fall of 2020.
But how on earth do you hold a kick-off assembly for 285 children when they aren’t even in the same building as you are?
In short – with a “7 million participant Zoom meeting,” quipped Adjustment Counselor Jenna Callahan.
In October of 2020, staff, students and families attended a virtual Choose To Be Nice kick-off assembly, the first of its kind! During this assembly, families were introduced to the Choose To Be Nice Nine Nice Mice and the guiding principles of the Choose To Be Nice program. An added benefit to the remote assembly was that children were able to share the experience with their families at home!
The Choose To Be Nice banner was brought into the conference room during the assembly, and staff demonstrated how children would “sign” the banner with their thumbprints once they were in the school building. Over the following weeks, many students began attending a hybrid version of school in cohorts, attending in person a few days a week, and learning from home the other days. During their in-school days, children were given the opportunity to make the Choose To Be Nice promise. As they stamped their thumbprint on the banner, they received a Choose To Be Nice t-shirt to remind them of their promise.
But what of the children who were still attending school in a fully remote setting? Well, their selfless adjustment counselor drove the banner to their homes and made the promise with each individual student. A true example of Choosing To Be Nice!
The Curran Early Childhood Education Center has not only included the Choose To Be Nice program in their hybrid education setting, they have fully embraced it and are a thriving Choose To Be Nice school. Each month, students are introduced to another Choose To Be Nice Mouse, and focus on the value that the mouse represents throughout their lessons that month. A television in the foyer of the school proudly displays the Mouse of the Month for all to see. Students receive a packet of worksheets and coloring pages to take home, and the school Speech Language Pathologist records a video of herself reading the monthly story to email out to all families. In this way, families can share the story time experience together. The language of kindness is intertwined throughout classroom lessons and the children’s social time. Choose To Be Nice is not just a curriculum in the Curran Early Childhood Education Center, it is a way of life.
And how do they know that the values are being absorbed by the little ones they are teaching? All they have to do is listen!
“We have a rolling drop off, where parents drive up and the students get out of their cars once they reach the front door. A kindergartener’s younger sibling was having a tantrum in the car. As she got out of the car, the little girl turned to the toddler and said ‘You aren’t being respectful to mom. Ryan the mouse wouldn’t be happy with that behavior! Choose To Be Nice!'”