Thankfulness becomes a habit with the Gratitude Project

Parkland School District  |  Posted on

Springhouse Middle School guidance counselor Michael Gross started a unique project for seventh graders called the Gratitude Project. He wanted to focus on character and personal development. When he polled the seventh grade teaching team at Parkland School District to get input on the type of practice they wanted for their students, he decided to incorporate writing into his idea.

He brought all seventh graders to the auditorium where he talked about gratitude, the science behind it, how it impacts the prefrontal cortex in the brain, and how it can become a habit if you choose to focus on it. He shared the emotional, physical and social benefits of practicing gratitude. At the end of the presentation, he asked the seventh grade English teachers, Kerin Steigerwalt, Jessica Reitnauer and Maria Serina to give students time for the assignment.

The project entailed writing a letter of gratitude to someone of the student’s choice. Gross offered to provide envelopes, postage and to mail letters to the person they were most grateful for. He slipped notes inside the envelopes telling the receivers of the letter that they made it into the Gratitude Project and invited them to send responses back to him so that he could share with the students how good their letters of gratitude made others feel.

Here are some examples of the responses:

“I can’t express enough how wonderful it was to get a letter from my former 2nd grade student! Her letter not only warmed my heart, but filled me with immense pride!! I am honored she chose me and that she would remember so many details and moments from 5 yrs ago! As elementary teachers, we always hope that we can provide a positive experience for the first steps on their education “ladder.” Her detailed and kind letter lets me know that she continues to be a wonderful student! Thank you for this special project! It brought a huge smile to my face and truly made my day!” – a Parkland teacher

“I wanted to share with you that I received a most heart full letter yesterday from my daughter who we adopted when she was approximately 5 years old. Out of all the things she could’ve written and people she could’ve selected, she elected to write to me to thank me for taking on something that I did not have to ever do. She was very insightful—of course it put tears in my eyes. So thank you for having the children get involved in this project.” – a Parkland mother

“I received a letter of gratitude from your class. A letter from my beautiful, amazing, thoughtful granddaughter thanking me for always being there for her and how much she appreciates everything I do for her. The tears just flowed down my face as I was finishing the letter. Thank you so much for doing this project. I think it helps kids appreciate the things we do for them.” – a grandmother