Fifth graders at Woodward-Granger knit for patients at Blank Children’s Hospital

Mark HaineyContributor to the NER

Cooperation and caring –two traits once learned, can last a lifetime. That was the idea behind Woodward-Granger Guidance Counselor Dustin Ibarra’s efforts to create a hands-on learning experience.

And, what if we could link those concepts to the lessons of an idea called ValenKinds. ValenKinds, she said, is a notion promoted by Randomactsofkindness.org. Established in 1995, the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation (RAK) is an internationally recognized nonprofit based in Denver, CO. According to its literature, RAK is “dedicated to inspiring people to practice kindness and passing it on to others.” RAK provides free online resources to encourage acts of kindness across the globe, specifically in schools.

And, as it so happens, there is a two-year-old RAK club at Woodward-Granger High School with Pat Virrips, the high school at-risk counselor, as its sponsor.

So, said Ibarra, why not bring the RAK vision at the high school down to the Elementary level. The turnout of parents, teachers, staff, and students was amazing said Ibarra, She said she expected perhaps eight or nine participants but got some 22 fifth graders involved in Caring Crochet or Kind Knitting. Cooperation – part of the object lesson – was the watchword of the day. The Elementary PTO and the secondary RAK contributed funds for purchasing yarn as well as donations made by parents. “Mrs. Virrup told me, don’t worry about it, we’ll find you the money!” Ibarra recalled.

The two days of Caring Crochet or Kind Knitting also demonstrated the spirit of cooperation. Teachers and staff helping students, students helping students, and parents helping students created “an atmosphere of belonging and excitement,” said Linda Carroll, director of teaching and learning. In fact, says Ibarra, parents got involved by reading their children’s sign-up sheets and wanted to join in.

Then there was the important lesson of completing the job. Ibarra noted that students had the option of also making rubber band bracelets or tickets entitling the bearers to a random hug. Lastly, she said, students prepared snack packs for local police and firefighters.

The crocheted and knitted items were donated to patients at Blank Children’s Hospital in Des Moines.