Lesson brings kindness from classroom to streets

EMSDALE – A commercial about the homeless in Toronto has inspired a small class to think big.

The commercial for Project Winter Survival came on Evergreen Heights’ Grade 2/3 teacher Shelley Armstrong’s television one night showing a dog without a collar or leash walking the streets of Toronto. Many people stopped and waited with the dog, some even tried to locate its owner. Then, a man takes the dog’s place, and he is ignored.

After watching the commercial, Armstrong thought it would be a great thing to bring to the classroom. By asking the kids to bring in loose change, they would be able to count it then donate the money to Project Winter Survival.

“I thought we’d get enough for one or two kits, if we were lucky,” Armstrong said. The $25 kit consists of a sleeping bag, mittens, hygiene products, warm clothing and water. Armstrong’s class raised $225: enough for nine kits.

Shelley Armstrong’s Grade 2/3 class at Evergreen Heights have raised $225 to send to Project Winter Survival: a project working towards keeping homeless people on the streets of Toronto warm during the winter months.
Shelley Armstrong’s Grade 2/3 class at Evergreen Heights have raised $225 to send to Project Winter Survival: a project working towards keeping homeless people on the streets of Toronto warm during the winter months.

“It’s important to us because we saw the video and it kind of made all of us sad,” Jordan Leeder, 8, said. “It made us upset because they were caring about the dog but they weren’t caring about the human. Most people would care about both of them so it made us sad.”

“I think it was sort of sad because if no one cares about the homeless, it’s a chance more people will get sick and die,” Mille Hood, 9, said. “We didn’t want that to happen so we tried to make a change.”

“I felt sad because if they don’t help the homeless people, who will?” Ayla McNichol, 7, said.

Armstrong has always implemented kindness in her lessons. In her classroom, she keeps a bowl of marbles on her desk. When one of her students displays an act of kindness, she adds a marble to the bowl. At the end of the year, her students guess how many marbles are inside and walk away feeling good about themselves.

“When we add up the marbles at the end of the year the kids are just amazed at how kind they’ve been to each other,” she said. “And they just do it out of kindness… it’s wonderful.”

Armstrong’s lessons in kindness are infectious. Some of her students have plans to make a difference when the summer rolls around. Armstrong said the concept of homelessness is foreign to her students, but the need to help is strong.

“I’m working on bracelets at my house to sell for money,” Leeder said.

“We’ve been making a lot of loom bracelets and rings and necklaces,” Hood said. “In the summer hopefully we’re going to be able to sell them and send the money to homeless people.”

“I can probably pile a lot of kits for homeless people because… in the summertime, I’ve already done it, but I’ve got rid of a lot of toys in my bedroom and I’m going to have a big yard sale and hopefully I can get all of my toys sold away and then I’ll probably have a lot of money to give to homeless people,” Eric Smith, 7, said.

Armstrong is hopeful the acts of kindness will stay with her students throughout their life.

“I’m hoping that it will be a generation of kids that think of someone other than themselves, which I think is probably getting lost these days,” she said.

Armstrong hopes to see this classroom project become school-wide.

“We’re hoping that this becomes a school initiative,” she said.

“Little acts of kindness makes the classroom much more enjoyable to be in. [The students] are in the classroom for quite a long time out of their life and being kind to each other is a very important thing. I love to see it spilling over into home life and being kind to the neighbours and things like that.

“That’s basically why I started it, just random acts of kindness and how it can snowball and effect many lives other than their own.”

“I’m very proud of that actually, it’s wonderful.”

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