BEND, Ore. (AP) — Nine-year-old Ocean Eisenberg wanted to change something about his school.
Ocean is a third-grader at Seven Peaks School in Bend, and he didn’t like how some of the children were treating each other.
“There had been a lot of bullying in the school, a lot of arguments and pushing,” said Ocean. He says a lot of the fights took place at recess — one kid would want the ball first or want to kick the ball or be excluded from a group — and the kids would fight.
“They weren’t being nice to each other,” said Ocean.
Something of a peacemaker, Ocean says he would try to talk to the kids when they would get upset.
“I had already tried to solve some problems and it didn’t work,” said Ocean. He often saw his teacher, Jennifer Baughman, intervene. “My teacher told them not to do it and it didn’t work.”
Pretty soon, the kids would be right back to arguing and fighting.
Ocean’s mom, Emmy Eisenberg, says it was something her son talked about a lot at home. She says he felt frustrated.
That’s when Ocean came up with the idea for the Kindness Club.
And since the club started a few weeks ago, there has been a noticeable shift in how kids treat each other, according to Baughman.
“I definitely think it’s had an impact,” said Baughman. “It’s really helped (the kids) be reflective.”
Ocean wanted to make it easy for people to point out when someone wasn’t being kind. He noticed that sometimes, when you speak up and tell someone they aren’t being nice, that can just lead to a bigger argument.
Ocean’s idea was to give bracelets that said Kindness Club to everyone in his class. Then, whenever kids saw someone who wasn’t being nice, the student would tap his or her bracelet. It’s a gentle way to remind kids to be kind to one another.
School administrator Robert Rusk was impressed with the idea. “I’m amazed by what he’s done,” said Rusk. “I give him all the credit.”
Ocean ordered the bracelets online and gave them to everyone in class, including his teacher.
Emmy Eisenberg liked how her son approached the problem. He wasn’t looking to get kids in trouble — this was a positive solution. “If you have kindness and can learn kindness, it has a ripple effect,” she said.
Baughman says it is pretty typical for third-graders to argue during recess — they are an age when they are learning about how to have compassion for others and “sportsmanship can be a tough lesson.” She noticed this year “there were lots of hurt feelings happening at recess.” She spent a lot of time talking to the class about sportsmanship and being kind to one another. But the conflict persisted.
One day, she was lecturing the class about getting along, when Ocean raised his hand. He told her and the students about his idea for a kindness club.
Ocean presented his idea to the class. He said kindness included things like not pushing, not saying bad things, not arguing and including everyone. He asked kids to come up in front of the class and role play different scenarios and then instructed them on how to use the bracelet to solve the problem.
Baughman liked the idea right away, saying the bracelet provided a visible reminder to be kind. She also liked that everyone could be in the club and it would help hold everyone accountable. Baughman talks about the Kindness Club nearly every day in class. “It’s part of the fabric of our classroom now.”
While it is Ocean’s idea, she hopes to continue the concept of the club and maybe elevate it even further, although she isn’t certain how.
The other kids also responded really positively. “The kids were so excited,” said Baughman. “It’s been really cool. When the kids feel someone is being unkind, they point at their bracelets.” The bracelets serve as a “constant reminder about the pact they made to be kind.”
Ocean says he thinks the club has made a big difference and has noticed fewer fights and fewer arguments. “Whenever you tap it, it usually stops the argument.”
Emmy Eisenberg says she thinks it works just to help pause the argument, almost like a time out. She says kindness has always been a focus in their home. They write in gratitude journals, for instance, and talk about what it means to be kind. Ocean volunteers at the Humane Society and has been a vegetarian since he was little; he feels every living thing has the same rights.
“He has always had a heart like that,” said Eisenberg. “He saves flies out of spider webs.”
Ocean is also very active and loves football, soccer, tennis and skiing.
Baughman says Ocean has a “special gift” to be able to look outside of himself.
“It’s such an amazing idea,” said Baughman. “I was pretty proud of him.”
Emmy Eisenberg agrees, saying “I’m just really proud of him for coming up with his own solutions. It makes him happy to help others ... if everybody really thought about being kind, it would change everything.”