Eighteen students from Jonas E. Salk Middle School put their creativity and kindness to the test during the school's Tyler's Teddies Virtual Art Night. The evening event was facilitated by English teacher Michele Witte and art teacher Amanda Davidson over Google Meet. It was inspired by the middle school summer reading book "Pay It Forward" by Catherine Ryan Hyde, which promotes spreading kindness and also connected to the school's annual Tyler's Teddies Kindness Movement.
Each year, the Salk community embraces the idea of doing random acts of kindness and paying it forward. Ms. Witte and students usually host a Tyler's Teddies fundraiser which supports Kids In Danger, a nonprofit organization dedicated to child consumer safety products. Students would sell teddy bears with tags on them asking recipients to pay it forward in kindness.
Due to the global pandemic, Ms. Witte partnered with Ms. Davidson to find another way to encourage students and others to pay it forward. Unlike the teddy bear sale, the Virtual Art Night was not a fundraiser but a free event for all interested students. Ms. Davidson taught the students, along with Levittown's Director of English Kerin Slattery, how to draw a teddy bear at home. The students were then encouraged to complete a random act of kindness and pass along their teddy bear creation to three people who then had to pay it forward. Students took photos of their teddy bear drawings and tagged recipients by texting or emailing them.
"It was such a rewarding event," said Ms. Witte. "Students were able to take part in the event remotely, proving that even during a pandemic Salk students can still pay it forward and spread kindness."
In addition to sending virtual teddies, the students displayed their creations around the building. On their teddy bear's belly, they wrote down ways in which individuals can spread kindness. Seventh grade art night participant James DeLillo also created a video about the event which will be featured during the district's upcoming virtual Lights, Camera, Kindness Virtual Awards Show for middle school students.
"I had some much fun drawing and being with people even though we couldn't physically be there together," said eighth grade art night participant Olivia Galella, who reinforced the importance of spreading kindness during this difficult time. "No matter how small the act of kindness, it can make a huge impact."