My vision is to “Make America Kind, One School at a Time” with grateful kids lighting the way….As one teacher said, “Every school in the country should be doing this!”
Here in our new feature “Grateful Changemakers”, we celebrate programs and projects that serve as beacons of gratefulness. These efforts elevate the values of grateful living and illuminate their potential to transform both individuals and communities. Join us in appreciating the inspiring and catalyzing contribution these Changemakers offer to shaping a more grateful world.
Look for the Good Project
In just two-and-a-half years, the Look for the Good Project has helped 67,000 children in 20 states write over one million messages of gratitude to uplift their communities. Demand for the program continues to grow: There are just as many children signed up to participate in schools across the country this fall, and it’s only June.
The Look for the Good Project facilitates a 10-day Do-It-Yourself Gratitude Campaign for schools. Student leaders help coordinate the campaign, which includes four activities that inspire gratitude.
Founder and CEO Anne Kubitsky tells us more about the transformative impact of this project on students, parents, school teachers and administrators, and entire communities.
What sparked the Look for the Good Project?
Look for the Good was inspired by a whale rescue where the whale swam up to each rescue diver once she was free, nuzzling them in the chest in an act of thanks. This prompted me to start a public art project about gratitude in which I asked people to write or draw something that made them grateful and send that to me on a postcard in the mail. So many people participated that I was soon displaying the postcard art in books, the media, public installations, and also being asked to visit schools to share my story.
This went on for a number of years until the Connecticut Association of Schools invited me to develop a scalable program that they could share at their Elementary School Leadership Conference. Since then, we have incorporated into a nonprofit organization and opened up two offices — one at the Connecticut Association of Schools, and the other in Cary, North Carolina.
How does gratitude practice in schools fill a need for students?
Our school program focuses on early intervention — specifically giving K – 6 students the tools to build positive thoughts and actions in themselves and their peers. This can can greatly reduce the negative impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences and broaden students’ awareness to a wider range of positive thoughts and actions.
Not only does this make students more constructive and creative, but it also builds life resources which make them more resilient. Researchers Dr. Giacomo Bono and Dr. Jeffrey Froh report that grateful kids are happier, more satisfied with their lives, more generous, more cooperative, and more likely to use their strengths to better their communities. Grateful kids also have higher GPAs, better self-esteem, and are more likely to see the bigger picture. So a simple practice of gratitude infused into the school climate can really do a lot of good!
What inspires participation in the Gratitude Campaign?
When children take a leadership role in reminding everyone to “look for the good”, it has this incredible way of inspiring the whole community to participate — both children and adults. Shortly after our pilot program at Doolittle School in Cheshire, CT, a student died, and the whole community came together. A teacher told me that our program had given the community constructive tools to process the death and also a way to find hope amid the sadness.
I was particularly inspired by one eleven-year-old student who took the initiative to run another Gratitude Campaign to help her friends process the loss, and then she donated her next two birthdays to our scholarship award, which is given to a child going through loss or transition. I captured some of her gratitude on camera and her words inspired the CT Commissioner of Education to endorse the program statewide and many schools to sign up for the program.
The magic of this program comes from the kids. Their enthusiasm reminds us of how special gratitude can be.
How do students incorporate grateful living into their lives after participating in the campaign?
Students definitely start bringing the concepts home. During the school program, for example, students create a big “Gratitude Wall” of sticky notes that can be as large as 16,000 colorful notes stuck to a wall somewhere in the school. It’s a beautiful display of gratitude, and kids are often very proud of it. Parents have told me that their children have loved this so much that they have taken the initiative to start their own “Gratitude Wall” at home, and sometimes they even ask parents what they are grateful for at dinner.
Hear more from students excited about gratitude and the Look for the Good Project.
What is the lasting impact in schools beyond the campaign?
Administrators regularly tell me that the program has positively impacted the school climate long afterwards. Here are some testimonials:
“This was by far the most successful school climate initiative I have ever introduced to my building. I have never had such positive feedback from parents, students, and staff members. It gave my student leaders a chance to work together to plan and then to see their plan successfully put into action. The Look for the Good project sets a tone of understanding, tolerance, and acceptance for our children, and gives them the opportunity to set an example for the adults in their community.” — Melissa Swanson, Wilcoxson Elementary School, CT
This campaign cut our discipline referrals in half, and they have not been as high since before we started this program. It truly has helped kids think outside themselves and about others. — Rachel Gabrielson, John G. Prendergast School, CT
What are some of the common barriers and obstacles that arise for participants during the campaign? How are they addressed?
There are two things I try to prepare people for: Gratitude Shame and Gratitude Fatigue.
Gratitude Shame happens when people assume that they must ALWAYS be grateful, and then discover that they can’t do that very easily. The reason being: it’s impossible. We remind people that it’s normal not to feel grateful sometimes. If you don’t have anything to share yet, that’s okay! Wait, look for the good, and see what happens!
Gratitude Fatigue is also something to watch out for. The reason our program works so well is because it’s relatively short. When teachers try to extend the program much longer than this, the novelty wears off and the program activities may begin to feel a little stale. Since our program is structured to 10 days, teachers avoid this pitfall just by following our directions.
What inspires you personally about this work? What inspires you to continue growing this project?
Before the Look for the Good Project began, I had become isolated and was feeling very lost. The Look for the Good Project has helped me find a greater purpose in my life and untangle from a lot of baggage, including a childhood sexual assault that impacted me greatly. During this time in our nation’s history we need leaders infused with integrity, kindness, and gratitude. So to be instilling these values in the next generation of leaders makes me very hopeful for our future.
How does gratefulness inspire everyone working for the project/program?
Grateful people are happy people, and happy people love to volunteer. I have been really blessed to receive so much love and support from SO many people on this journey. For example, while Look for the Good Project was just a public art project, artist Diana Lyn Cote decided to paint 366 grateful moments on postcard-sized pieces of paper — one each day, for a leap year. She donated many of these to the project to help us raise money, and ALL of them were originally inspired by Brother David himself, since she watched his gratefulness video as a meditation before she started painting each day. Check out her project here.
How does Look for the Good plan to grow?
My vision is to “Make America Kind, One School at a Time” with grateful kids lighting the way. So far, we have reached about 13 percent of elementary schools in Connecticut (all through word of mouth), which would translate to about 4.5 million children nationally. With 89,000 elementary schools in the country, we have a lot of schools to reach (and funding to raise!) to meet our goals. As one teacher said, “Every school in the country should be doing this!”
Since many of the participating schools are Title 1 and need help with our program fee, I am working hard to raise the necessary money to support them. If we can afford to get programming materials to all of them, our total impact will have jumped up to 115,000 children, generating almost two million messages of gratitude!
Learn more about donating to sponsor a school.
If you could encapsulate one message for students who participate in the project, what would that be?
As a kid, you actually have MORE power than an adult in your ability to inspire adults (and other kids) into positive action. The Look for the Good Project works because it is fueled by kids like you who want to uplift their schools with positivity.
If Look for the Good could share one message about living gratefully, what would it be?
When you look for the good, that’s what you find, and your life builds around that. When you look for the bad, your life builds around that too. So the choice is yours on what you choose to focus on, and it’s okay if you don’t always choose.
To bring this program to a school near you, share this website with the school principal: Look for the Good Project
To learn about other Grateful Changemakers, visit: Grateful Changemakers
Do you know of a project/program that elevates the values of grateful living? If so, we invite you to nominate them for our Grateful Changemaker article series.