Piece by Peace, CHARACTER COUNTS! Week 2011 at Westwood-Bales School


Barbara Gruener is an elementary guidance counselor in Friendswood, Texas, and a frequent contributor here at the Character Educator blog. This month, she shares her school’s experience during CHARACTER COUNTS! Week 2011 (October 16 – 22). We’ll bring you more stories of CC! Week 2011 soon. Meanwhile, check out Barbara’s own blog, Corner on Character, where she offers lots of ideas for implementing character education in schools.

Ah, October, when the worldwide CHARACTER COUNTS! celebration and the National Red Ribbon campaign collide!  At Westwood-Bales Elementary School, we knew it’d be hard to compete with last year’s success as we helped students Color The World With Character. But the synergy we’ve created by merging two campuses into one this year helped supersede anything we’ve ever done before.

It started with a planning meeting and an inquiry:  What if we were to replace the dress-up days and collect a different item to support a local charitable organization each day?  No more crazy socks?  Nope, let’s collect non-toxic, kid-safe cleaning products instead.  And no bring-your-favorite-stuffed-animal day?  Wouldn’t it be better to collect toys to help our town’s Blue Santa program?  But what about PJ day?  Let’s collect non-perishable food items and put hunger to sleep instead.  A RED day?  Well, ok, we’ll launch the week by wearing RED to promote caring and healthy choices on Monday! But we’ll also collect toiletries and personal hygiene items that day to help restock the shelves at our local pantries.

Our PeaceMakers, who wore their tie-die Say Peace Out To Drugs wristbands all week, exceeded our expectations. What a thrill to experience the excitement of our littlest leaders comparing the items that they’d brought as they turned them in at our Donation Station.  Heartwarming giggles, touching remarks.  Because of the generosity of our school family, we were able to restock the shelves at two local churches and the Christian Helping Hands pantry as well as fill a closet with toys at the Friendswood Police Department for Blue Santa.

The week kicked off on Saturday in the middle of town at Stevenson Park, where the Westwood-Bales family attended a Wrap the Town Red ceremony to hear our third-grade Treble Makers sing Forever Free.  During the week, we hosted a school-wide PEACE walk on Monday, a Hometown Heroes Peace Pep Rally led by students at Friendswood High School on Wednesday, and the grand finale, a musical production honoring our third graders’ grandparents on Friday.  Students on the Westwood campus discussed what it means to be a PeaceMaker in guidance clasees and autographed an I Pledge To Be A PeaceMaker sign, now proudly posted in our cafeteria. For parents and guardians, we held a Coffee Chat with the Counselors on Tuesday to share some tips and strategies for bully-proofing our students and our school. The final Saturday was designated Nature Center Clean Up Day to provide a service opportunity for students and their families.

We met our goal to make this year’s celebration more intentional, purposeful, and meaningful, and we had a blast while Helping Our Community, Piece By Peace.

Image: Westwood-Bales 3rd graders perform a grande finale musical for an assembly of their grandparents during CHARACTER COUNTS! Week 2011 in Friendswood, Texas.