Green Hearts campaign encouraging kindness, compassion, friendship
By Chris Lewis
Students at St. George’s Elementary have managed to stay connected, despite being separated.
Schools across the province, and around the world, have had to close their doors because of the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Among them is St. George’s Elementary in Long Pond, which has been closed for nearly a month now.
Although students at that age are not taking part in virtual classrooms as is being done at higher grade levels and universities, they are still being encouraged to do as much learning as they can from home, and to take part in school activities.
That’s where the Green Heart Program, organized by principal Paul Edwards, comes in.
Edwards explained that during the first week of the school’s closure, he wanted to find something that would help keep the school community connected. That, he said, came in the form of small green hearts.
Edwards reached out to parents whose children attend the elementary school in hopes that he could get them to encourage their kids to take part in the program by placing green paper hearts in their windows. This, he hoped, would help relieve students of feelings of loneliness in trying times such as these as they recognize the hearts set out by their classmates and friends.
“Green is our school colour, and the heart is representative of the love and kindness that we express in our school. It’s something to keep our children connected,” Edwards explained.
He, as well as one of the school’s kindergarten teachers, drove around the community within the following days to see if the project had panned out the way they hoped. To their elation, they saw plenty of green hearts in windows and doors.
After snapping a few photos, Edwards posted the photos to Twitter, so that students could also go online to see just how many of their schoolmates were taking part in the Green Heart Program.
He hopes that by seeing these hearts popping up around town, the students will feel a sense of connection they would otherwise normally get by interacting with their friends at school.
“I can only imagine that these children have tons of questions floating around in their minds,” said Edwards. “So, my focus with this was on their social and emotional well being. We thought this would be a nice activity to help keep them connected, keep them interested – when they’re out for a drive, they’ll see some green hearts around town, and they’ll be able to make the connection that this is someone from within the St. George’s community. We’re trying to build a sense of school spirit, and togetherness.”
Thanks to initiatives taken by the teachers, similar to the Green Heart program, the students have had plenty to do in the weeks since their school closed down. This includes a virtual pizza party and an Easter parade, where they could participate in various Easter-related activities from home.
Word of the Green Hearts program spread quickly, and before long, there were a plethora of people with some sort of connection to St. George’s Elementary taking part and sticking a green heart in their windows.
The program even managed to cross international borders, with Edwards receiving photos of green hearts in places as far away as the United Kingdom, Australia, and even South Korea.
“I wanted to take something out of all this, and help create some positive memories for the children. It spread very quickly, and I think that gave the students not only a sense of excitement, but a sense of security and community. In a time like this, that’s so good to have,” Edwards said.
While school is out, Edwards said, teachers from St. George’s have been making themselves available as best they can to lend a hand to students, checking in with parents throughout the week via emails and phone calls to see how the students are holding up with the online learning resources being offered by the school board.
Edwards also suggested that, for those who are out of work or not deemed essential workers, it may be some of the first instances where these families are able to be together as a family for extended periods of time. This, he said, provides plenty of opportunity for the children to learn important life skills in and around the home.
“If we try and look at the good side of all this doom and gloom, there are some positives to it,” said Edwards. “Families can reconnect and form stronger, positive relationships once this is all said and done. I think by doing these activities – the Green Hearts, pizza parties, and everything else we have planned – we are keeping them connected, and keeping it in their heads that they’re still a part of St. George’s, even though they’re not in the building. They can still maintain those strong relationships they form at school.”