It is an annual tradition for the students at Shippensburg University to set aside their differences for the month of February and take part in some acts of kindness.
The #ShipBeKind initiative provides daily tasks for each student to accomplish whether it be saying “hello” to an old friend or simply telling someone “thank you,” every Ship student has a chance to be kind. However, there is a group of SU students who do not normally get to take part in other campus events, but were still able to have a lesson in kindness.
The students in question are the more than 120 students of Grace B. Luhrs University Elementary School. On Friday, Feb. 25, each grade from kindergarten through fifth took part in leaving their mark on the university. The students were able to do this by painting their hands and placing their “leaves” on the tree mural located on the second floor of Shippen Hall.
Of course, this was not just another opportunity for the children to color the walls, but it also served as a lesson on kindness. This was taught by some of the teachers in training here at the university — Ashley Smith, Abby Birchet and Jen Shade — who each read from “The Wisdom of Trees” by Lita Judge.
The mural is modeled after one of the many trees the students learned about from the book. The leaves are made up of handprints from students, their teachers, Smith, Birchet, Shade, and even this reporter himself was allowed to join in on the fun.
Smith and Birchet were the brains behind the lesson, helped along by Lynn Baynum, chair of the teachers education department.
“This year we have been really focused on spirit days at the elementary school, and one of the spirit days the students chose was kindness day,” Smith said.
As a member of the Student Government Association, Smith also chose the event to bridge the elementary school and the university. “I hadn’t really seen the connection as strong as it was as it is now,” she said.
Birchet described the event as “the main reason we are going here,” in reference to building the connection with the younger students and being able to have such great hands-on training. Birchet is also a member of SGA.
While the event was mainly the work of Smith and Birchet, none of it would have been possible without the guidance of Baynum.
“Here we have students, who have the opportunity to model teaching through this experience,” Baynum explained. “But also model how we are connected by these handprints. It’s giving them an opportunity to create a legacy here at the university. So, this isn’t just about this tree, this is about everything they’re doing today to demonstrate their teaching skills.” Baynum also painted the tree’s base.
Moving forward, the plan for the mural is to touch up any lighter handprints and ultimately make it a permanent part of the building. A part of the building that the children of today can return to years from now when they themselves could potentially be students at Shippensburg University.