Code Orange: Belvedere Elementary Celebrates Unity Day

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You’ve likely heard of the scouting way, or the Google way, or even the Oriole way to describe teams and organizations with a unique culture and method of operating. At Belvedere Elementary, a new student coined the term “the Belvedere way.”

The Belvedere way — a culture of empathy and kindness — was visible on October 23 as students joined their peers across the county in turning their school orange to unify against bullying and to celebrate National Bullying Prevention Month. Belvedere Elementary had an especially strong effort, with each grade engaging in its own project.

“The goal is to have it be embedded not just on this day but throughout the school year,” said Sue Young, school counselor and equity lead.

Throughout October, the school lobby was decorated with about 20 pumpkins donated by Home Depot in Annapolis — a donation made possible by employee Andrew Olumoya Jr. Kids used markers to label each pumpkin with a message of kindness.

On Unity Day, first-graders talked about what kindness meant to them.

“Being kind means being an upstander,” said Raygan G., using the term for someone who recognizes when something is wrong and acts to make it right.

Jordan J. said kindness is “playing with everybody,” and Kiera C. said it is “loving friends.”

Fifth-graders cut out orange paper hands and placed them side by side on a poster with the phrase “reaching for kindness” at the center. Third-graders designed their own orange shirts. In one Belvedere class, students donned headbands and dressed as kindness ninjas.

Kindergartners took turns sitting at the center of a square as their friends shared their thoughts on what makes them a good person. Several grades joined together to form a kindness chain with handwritten messages.

While some of those projects lasted days or weeks, Young said kids start every day throughout the year with 20-minute meetings that reinforce positive behavior.

“Some lessons are about empathy, some are about problem-solving,” she said. “Some are about basic skills needed to be successful in life.”

Unity Day is over, but the Belvedere Way is gaining momentum.

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