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High Five to Kindness!

By Sarah Ritchie | September 2023

Do you know the power of a high five? Sending a high five is a way to express gratitude and celebration, and exchange positive reinforcement. It is an instantaneous way of telling a person that they are important. The science behind it is easy – when you high-five, your brain releases dopamine, a chemical that boosts happiness. So how about the power of a high five AND a school Kindness Club?

Developing and implementing your own Kindness Club can help create strong school-wide and community relationships. Kindness Clubs can bring students, staff, families and the community together to create positive environments that benefit the entire school and beyond. I love sharing creative ways to implement school-wide initiatives, create a club, build self-esteem/morale and support social/emotional learning school-wide.

The development of the Kindness Crew has allowed a strong school-wide and community relationship to bloom! I have been honored to start and lead the club, and this has been one of the proudest moments of my professional career. The Kindness Crew is an after-school club including students from 2nd to 5th grade that started in 2020 after a school-wide Kindness Initiative that included an assembly, newspaper article and whole-school photo spelling the word “kindness.” The Crew members were selected by completing an application, teacher recommendation and referral for self-esteem needs. Every month, the Crew works together to carry out activities with the goal of keeping “kind cool.”

As a crew, we have done student and staff give-back projects and morale-boosting acts, creating and distributing random acts of kindness pinwheels across the county and beyond, blessing nursing homes with pick-me-ups, showing support for our local school board with other school leaders, and volunteering hours at a horse therapy farm. We created a peer model program partnering with our division’s preschool to bring the Crew into their classrooms to help young students learn through play and teach inclusiveness and kindness. This partnership builds the confidence of older students while empowering them to support and help preschool students. We have worked collaboratively on projects throughout the community such as our Watercolor High Five Project, Kindness Quilt and the Planting Kindness Project.

Since high fives are super cool, I implemented this at my elementary school last year, calling it “High Five to Kindness!” Our initiatives started with our High Five to Kindness Week, supported by the Crew, and it then rolled into a school-wide, continuous initiative.

The Watercolor High Five Project was a school-wide project where students explored the impact of kindness and the power of a high five. This was a collaboration with my art teacher using watercolor as a medium to promote playfulness, creativity, accepting mistakes, emergence and possibility. We learned that high fives don’t just benefit the receiver, but also the giver of the high five. The entire school came up with the coolest class high fives, group high fives, high fiving themselves, fun ways to deliver high fives like tiny paper high fives – the list goes on.

The Kindness Quilt was a project collaborating with the Crew and their preschool buddies. The pairs worked together to make a kindness patch. It is displayed in our preschool as a reminder to the students of how we can build relationships and work together at all ages.

Planting Kindness was developed as a school beautification project. We recruited help from families, community leaders, our sheriff's office and local businesses to help clean up, mulch, paint, plant and supply the project each Fall and Spring. We collaborate with our PTA, receive donations from local businesses, and the Crew help with the upkeep of the gardens during the school year. This instills pride in our building and responsibility into our students.

The Kindness Crew has a positive presence in the community, even being established for only a few years. I hope that you take a moment to try an initiative or two this school year. I am sending you the biggest high five as we all start another school year!

Sarah Ritchie is a member of the VSCA Board of Directors, and was named Virginia Elementary School Counselor of the Year 2023. Contact her at