Feeling grateful in Lawrence


Applying a different approach to the typical New Year’s resolutions, Lawrence School District’s Mental Wellness Committee invited the schools to celebrate what they were thankful for as students returned to school after the holiday break.

With research showing that feeling grateful results in improved physical and pyschological health, increased feelings of empathy, improved sleep, reduced aggression, enhanced self-esteem and stronger mental and social connections, school staff introduced activities each day to help students make the connection between expressing gratitude and feeling good. The activities were geared to engage the students in all aspects of the academic curriculum. 

“Students and staff were quick to point out all that they were grateful for,” said Lawrence Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen stated in a news release. “Showing gratitude is something we definitely all need and should be doing right now. Even the smallest action can really go a long way in promoting good health.”

Elementary and middle school students challenged themselves to find something they were grateful for starting with each letter of the alphabet. Several of the schools created giant mason jars where students wrote what they were grateful for, while middle school students contributed to a giant journal.

Students in grades four through eight wrote thank you cards to someone who had made a difference in their lives, learning that giving matches the feeling of receiving.

Primary school students created gratitude mugs with marshmallows that expressed why each child is grateful. Early Childhood Center students took part in a seven-day gratitude challenge, complete with thank you notes and celebrating what they love about themselves. 

District psychologist Dr. Karen Mackler, who leads the of the Wellness Committee, sent out a newsletter to staff each day, including journaling prompts, sayings about gratitude, a gratitude quiz and brief videos on behalf of the committee. “It was a great way to start the year on a positive note, reminding us of all the good gratitude can do in our lives,” Mackler said in the release.