“Homework for the Soul” nights at Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School have quickly become a favorite monthly tradition of students, parents and teachers.
On the third Wednesday of every month, the only homework assignment for students is to spend time with their families, reflect on that month’s character trait and watch a YouTube video related to the trait. The following day, students and teachers typically take some time to discuss the character trait as a class.
One of those videos inspired fifth grade teacher Emily Lohse’s class to go beyond a mere discussion. November’s video focused on a SoulPancake experiment, which focused on gratitude. The youngsters took it from there.
The video depicted adults writing to someone who inspired them the most in their life. In the video, the adults were surprised when told they had to call that person and read them what they wrote. The researcher in the video stated that participants who called someone important to them left happier than when they entered.
After watching the video, one of Ms. Lohse’s students asked if the class could write to the person they are most thankful for. Then another student asked if they could make phone calls. One more chimed in that they should turn it into a video and a new “gratitude project” took off from there.
“I just thought it would be a good idea for our class to do because we’re a good class,” fifth grader Henry Stein said.” Classmate Jolie Weinschreider added, “Since we watched this video, we decided to give thanks to the people who are most important in our lives.”
Fifth grader Kenny Gilhuley offered to draw an introductory image based loosely off the animated introduction to the original SoulPancake video. All of the youngsters were excited to participate and the class erupted in cheers when they found out Principal Donna Moro would let them use the conference room to make their calls.
Since Ms. Lohse teaches two sections of ELA, she shared the idea with faculty colleague Tracey McManus and her homeroom class and they became equally excited about the idea and wanted to be a part of it.
The project was born over three days. On Monday, students brainstormed reasons they were thankful for someone important in their lives. Tuesday saw them pen their paragraphs and on Wednesday they made their phone calls.
Students were given the option to call or simply read their letter aloud to a camera and a majority of the students eagerly chose to go through with the call. Both classes decided to keep the project a secret from their family members, although a mysterious note was sent home reminding parents to “Please don’t be alarmed if you or someone you know receives a phone call from the school on Wednesday and please don’t be offended if you don’t!”
“The ‘gratitude project’ brought ‘Homework for the Soul’ to life and demonstrated that students see these important videos and conversations as more than just a night of no homework,” Ms. Lohse said.
“As you can see in the video, the ‘gratitude project’ was a great success enjoyed by students and family members on both sides of the phone,” Ms. Lohse said. “The video serves as a heartwarming reminder to not only pause to be grateful for the important people in our lives, but to also take the time to tell those people. As the fifth graders proved, expressing one’s gratitude really does increase one’s happiness.”