by Moira Cullings
LEAWOOD — “How did he do that?”
The question echoed throughout the gym at Nativity School here as Magic Scott Henderson performed his final act on Nov. 19.
The third, fourth and fifth graders in the audience — and even the teachers — were amazed as fourth grader Alexa Hancox lay on a table that began to levitate off the ground as the local magician removed its foundational blocks.
But it was the underlying message that suffused the show that will likely stick with the students in the long run: Be kind.
The spectacle wrapped up Nativity’s third annual Kindness Week, held at the school Nov. 15-19.
The event is “celebrated to bring the importance of kindness to the forefront of students’ minds while incorporating fun and easy activities for teachers and staff,” said PTO president Carolyn Darby.
The week’s theme was: “Fill a Bucket,” based on the children’s book “Fill a Bucket: A Guide to Daily Happiness for Young Children” by Carol McCloud and Katherine Martin.
The purpose was to teach students the importance of filling their own and each other’s buckets with positivity.
“In a world where there just isn’t enough kindness, our children need to know that they can and should be the change they wish to see in this world,” said Darby, who has three sons at Nativity.
“God wants us to love our neighbor and treat others as we would want to be treated,” she added. “And this Kindness Week is a fun way to remind our kids [of that].”
Each day of the week provided something special.
Several Nativity families kicked off the event early on Sunday, Nov. 14, when they volunteered to clean up a local park.
On Monday, students participated in a pep rally and were invited to wear Kansas City Chiefs gear to school. The following day, they decorated the school parking lot with chalk, and middle schoolers participated in a bonfire.
On Wednesday, students prayed an all-school rosary and received a bucket full of treats. They wore kindness T-shirts on Thursday.
The week culminated on Friday with an all-school Mass, and the grades broke up into three groups to watch Magic Scott’s anti-bullying performance throughout the day.
“His presentation style and the way he interacts with the kids and the teachers — you could hear the kids and how engaged they were,” said principal Luke Jennison.
Even the middle school students were impressed by the performance.
“He had a bunch of storylines planned out and did magic tricks all along the way and had us interact with it,” said eighth grader Mia Angles. “It was really fun.”
Angles’ favorite part of the week was when the seventh and eighth grade students were assigned a classmate to write a letter to explaining why they’re special.
“We got to show each other why we appreciate each other,” said Angles, “and that doesn’t really happen as much as it probably should.
“It showed us how we need to appreciate each other more, and that kindness is the way to go — it’s more fun than everything [else].”
The students also wrote down their regrets on a piece of paper, which they burned in the bonfire before enjoying s’mores.
“Everybody really focused in on being as nice to each other as possible,” said Angles of the week.
Parents like Darby are grateful their children are being influenced within the context of the Catholic faith.
“There is great peace in knowing that they are being molded by wonderful teachers who understand that the best gift they can provide our youth is an education rooted in the Gospels,” she said.
In Jennison’s experience working at both public and Catholic schools, he’s found that the benefits of incorporating the faith make all the difference.
“What sets us apart is we can have a Kindness Week, but we tie it into the sacraments,” he said.
“Yes, we’re called to treat everyone with dignity and respect and love,” he continued, “[but] we can also have the cornerstone of the conversation be about our faith and then branch out from there.”
Jennison hoped the lessons his students learned would stay with them long after Kindness Week ended.
“As a Catholic school, we’re called to be Christ-like to other people,” he said. “We’re called to be kind — not just this week but every week.”