I teach special education in an inclusive setting at a Head Start center in San Antonio Independent School District. A few years ago I saw an idea for a painted rock garden a school had created to share inspiration at their campus.
The main idea was rocks were painted by students and staff with uplifting phrases and pictures then placed in the front of the school with a sign- “Take one for inspiration. Leave one for motivation.” They talked about the decrease in reported bullying and an increase in positive relationships between peers and staff members. I knew I wanted to recreate this idea on my campus in some way but it took years to realize I didn’t need much to get started. All I needed was to share the power of kindness and positivity with my colleagues and a few phone calls for donations from local businesses.
Our district is fortunate to have the SAISD Foundation. A non-profit committed to funding big ideas and connecting educators with resources to ignite innovation at all grade levels in our district. I reached out to share the rock garden idea and they helped me build on the idea by including community members and local businesses. They connected me to the San Antonio River Authority and suggested we reach out to The Home Depot for donations to start the garden. SARA has an education team that’s dedicated to inspiring citizens of all ages to take action in their communities. This ended up being the perfect connection at the perfect time. We have a local park on the San Antonio River only half a block from our school called Confluence Park. It’s a beautiful space in the heart of downtown and we’ve been able to partner with SARA for future field trips and lessons around local ecosystems, conservation, nature, and protecting the San Antonio River. They have a monthly theme around mindfulness and kindness. They’ve shown our students how to spread kindness in ways we didn’t initially think about. Not only by talking about mindfulness and kindness but by taking care of our local parks and wildlife, sharing with others, and conserving what is ours. That was a big point they continued to make when we worked out our future plans- this is truly your park. They want Knox students and families to access the park for hands on learning opportunities. Along with SARA, one of our teachers was able to connect with The Home Depot and secured a donation of over 600 river rocks for us to use. Other teachers sent in paints and sealant. And every classroom had paint brushes, trays, sponges, and paper plates. We designated 3 days for the classes to paint and 2 days for the rocks to dry and place them outside.
Our plan for the rock garden is coming together beautifully! The kids love painting the rocks and everyone has shared a way to be kind to someone around them. We’ve had lessons on who shares kindness and what it means to be kind to others. They thought of ways we never thought a pre k student even knew- sitting close to someone when they’re sad, offering to help when someone is upset, sharing funny stories when someone needs a laugh, and helping neighbors or people they see in a grocery store.
We’re so thankful to those who have supported our idea! Everyone who had a part in this work has seen kindness flourish in unexpected ways. This idea was started to celebrate Random Acts of Kindness Day but it ended up being done in such an intentional way. We sought out resources and brought in as many community members as possible to make kindness something that everyone thinks about. It really didn’t take anything for us to get started. As I reflect on this project I’m eager to help others spread kindness with a rock garden so they know the impact of this idea on their students, families, and ultimately, their communities. Kindness certainly starts with one but it inspires many. So many businesses, families, and staff members came together to help this project take off. I can’t wait to hear stories of how our small school propelled kindness in the community and spread love to others in ways we didn’t think possible.
Post by Rebekah Ozuna
Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities(PPCD) Inclusion Teacher
Knox Early Childhood Head Start
San Antonio ISD
Rebekah Ozuna is a special education teacher in a Head Start center in San Antonio ISD. She teaches in an inclusion setting with a blend of 3, 4, and 5 year olds with and without disabilities. She is a Commissioner with the Aspen Institute National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development and a National Trainer for Managing Behavior in School Communities with American Federation of Teachers. She is an advocate for teaching the whole child and for educators in this work. Find her on Instagram under @MissOzuna to follow her fun loving kids and how they spread kindness to everyone they meet.