Creating a Culture of Kindness in Middle School

“In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

And that’s how it all started—random acts of kindness by unknown people in Shipley’s Middle School. To the three seventh graders behind the scenes, Izzy Johnson, Julianna Tallon, and Sara Kourula, dubbed the “Trio of Positivity,” that was enough. But as kindness should, it became contagious and spread into a Kindness Committee that planned an entire month of special activities. November became Middle School Kindness Month, in alignment with World Kindness Day on November 13. 

“To see people leaving notes and expressing happiness is my motivation,” said Sara. 

Using that motivation and a little help from counselor Lindsey Fick, the committee planned many activities, the first being a kindness rock painting station during lunch. Students painted rocks, and the committee hid them around the Middle School. 

“In Middle School at Shipley, there is a lot of emphasis on organization and being an upstander,” said Lindsey. “And we kind of forget that throughout our daily encounters, we are being kind. To enhance and give a spotlight on kindness is important. Going through middle school can be tough sometimes. It is so meaningful.”

Next was a “mix it up” lunch where students sat at random tables to get to know students from other grades. In advisory, students prepped by posing questions like “Why don’t we cross social boundaries?” “Why is it important to do so?” “What skills are you building when you cross social boundaries?” Breaking out of your comfort zone, leaning into a potentially awkward situation, and finding commonality in conversation are important skills for Middle School students to learn. 

“You don’t realize there’s not much interaction across grades,” said Julianna. “You’re mainly just hanging out with people in your advisory or classes or friend group. Everyone joining together was cool to see.” 

On World Kindness Day, a wall by the dining hall was covered in paper and smiley face balloons. Students wrote positive messages for everyone to see. When the box of markers was accidentally left out, Upper School students picked up where they left off, adding their own messages.

“It was a beautiful moment,” said Lindsey. “We're a campus where everybody should feel connected because of our size. So it was good to see those unexpected connections exist.”

Secret Advisory - a play on Secret Santa - focused on advisory pairings giving and receiving acts of kindness. Sweet treats, personalized notes to each student, decorating the room, and even a pet fish were some of the acts gifted to one another.

“I like seeing these acts of kindness because they can make such an impact on someone's day,” said Izzy. “And it makes me happy to know I had a part in that happiness.”

The committee also hosted a clothing and toiletries drive for Cradles to Crayons, one of Shipley’s service learning partners. Cradles to Crayons supports children and schools that need resources and provides our students the experience of completing meaningful service when they visit their facility each month. 

“You might not realize it, but these acts have such an impact,” Julianna said. “To see people react is amazing.”

An upcoming Kindness Cafe will showcase student art and music.

“These kids exemplify the fact that around here, we are kind,” said Lindsey. “Our kids care about each other, and the adults in our community care about our kids and their colleagues. Kindness is the norm here.”

“Shipley is really special,” said Izzy. “Because three kids can go to a teacher and say, ‘I think it would be cool to do this.’ And the teachers and administrators support them all the way through.”

View more photos from Kindness Day.


The Shipley School is a private, coeducational day school for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students, located in Bryn Mawr, PA. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world.