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Fridley Public Schools
A class of students and their teacher stand by the tree they created with their decorated hand print-outs.

Hayes Elementary celebrated Anti-Bullying Month and Unity Day on October 31 by wearing the color orange and participating in a schoolwide project. 

“We did a social and emotional learning (SEL) lesson on bullying in each classroom the week prior, and handed out pre-printed hands for students to decorate at the end of the lesson,” explained Kristine Chambers, Hayes school social worker. “The message was to use pictures or words to convey kindness, unity, and/or how to lend a helping hand to stand up to bullying.”

On October 31, classes taped their hands to the bare branches of large paper “unity trees” that adorned the hallway. “The unity trees represent coming together as a community to help take care of each other as it relates to kindness and anti-bullying,” said Chambers. 

Each tree had a printed copy of the anti-bullying pledge next to it, which read, “I will not use my hands for hitting or my words for hurting others. I will use them for helping.” The slogan, “hands are for helping,” was taught by a 4th grade student in the weekly video broadcast, Tower Talk, in anticipation of this day.

In addition to the trees, art teacher Laura Charles created a large wall display with the letters, K, N and D, allowing students to stand between the K and N to become the letter I in spelling out KIND. Each letter was decorated by the handprints of Hayes staff members to show how important kindness is to the adults in the building as well.

Chambers, who has been in charge of creating SEL lessons at Hayes this year, discovered this lesson when trying to find a project that would incorporate more student voice for Unity Day. 

“I thought the idea of each grade level coming together to create their own tree would visually resonate with students the importance and strength of their community, as well as show how beautiful, creative and diverse our students' minds and ideas are,” reflected Chambers. “It was amazing to watch how proud students were to hang their hand on the tree and point it out to peers and teachers. Students also enjoyed finding the handprints of their teacher and other staff they interact with on the KIND wall display.”