The Great Kindness Challenge 2018

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the 
second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.

Henry James

The Mitchell School is participating in The Great Kindness Challenge again this year.  It is one school week (January 22-28) devoted to performing as many acts of kindness as possible. Developing the habit of kindness has the power to increase tolerance, unity and respect for all.  This is the fifth year that our school has proudly participated in this proactive, positive, nation-wide bully prevention program.

You will see one of the checklists below in your child's red folder on January 22.  We have many fun activities planned for the week.  Keep scrolling; links to videos, songs, a booklist, and more information about The Great Kindness Challenge are shared below. Thank you for supporting this initiative in our community. 

We welcome any and all participation from parents, caregivers, and community members.

                    (YouTube videos -- be ready to close out of the advertising pop-ups)

Kind-Hearted Hand - The Great Kindness Challenge Theme Song  

Kind-hearted Hand song WITH lyrics 

Kindness Matters! Easy Ways YOU Can Make Your School a Kinder Place!  (This is a good way to introduce the Great Kindness Challenge to your students)  
Advertisement from an insurance agency in Thailand --  Thai Good Stories by Linaloved 

Children's Books

Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch - Eileen Spinelli
John’s Whistle  - Lili Ferreiros and Sonja Wimmer
The Lion and the Mouse - Bernadette Watts
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters - John Steptoe
Because Amelia Smiled - David Ezra Stein
Each Kindness - Jacqueline Woodson
The Invisible Boy - Trudy Ludwig
The Kindness Quilt - Nancy Elizabeth Wallace
Have You Filled a Bucket Today - Carol McCLoud
The Giving Tree - Shel Silverstein
The Golden Rule  - Ilene Cooper

More about The Great Kindness Challenge from their website:

Because Kindness Matters

The Great Kindness Challenge is proudly presented by Kids for Peace, a global 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Kids for Peace was co-founded in 2006 by Danielle Gram, a high school honors student and Jill McManigal, a mother and former elementary school teacher. What started organically as a neighborhood group of kids wanting to make our world a better place, has grown into an interconnected network of young peacebuilders worldwide.

In 2011, the elementary school that Jill’s children attended asked Kids for Peace to help create a more positive, unified and respectful school environment. As a result, The Great Kindness Challenge was designed and piloted with three Carlsbad, California schools. Because of our innovative approach and wildly successful results, word spread, and a kindness movement was born!

At the heart of The Great Kindness Challenge is the simple belief that kindness is strength. We also believe that as an action is repeated, a habit is formed. With the Great Kindness Challenge checklist in hand, students have the opportunity to repeat kind act after kind act. As kindness becomes a habit, peace becomes possible.

The Great Kindness Challenge is a grassroots movement that is making our schools, communities, and world a kinder and more compassionate place for all. Working together, we joyfully prove that KINDNESS MATTERS!

Team Kindness

Our team is joyful, tenacious, committed and kind. In true grassroots fashion, our big-hearted team consists of mostly volunteers who work passionately around Jill’s dining room table. We have one simple goal: to create a culture of kindness for all.

Winter Fun Guide 2018

Mitchell School parent, Peggy Meyers, has put together a fabulous Winter Fun Guide for Families First and has given us permission to share it with Mitchell School families.  It is a list of fun activities in the Seacoast area that are free or low-cost.  Check out the great spots for sledding, hiking, snowshoeing, skating, and so much more.  Thank you Peggy!

Winter Fun Guide 2018

Children and lying

A recent article in The New York Times is interesting material for those of us raising children.

"The key to fostering honest behavior, Professor Lee and his colleagues argue, is positive messaging — emphasizing the benefits of honesty rather than the drawbacks of deception."  (Stone, NYTimes) 

Some wonderful books about honesty would include The Empty Pot by Demi,  Ruthie and the (Not So) Teeny Tiny Lie by Laura Rankin, and The Honest-To-Goodness Truth by Patricia McKissack.

Link to article below: Is Your Child Lying to You? That's Good

CreditLeo Espinosa
Should parents be troubled when their kids start to deceive them?
Odds are, most of us would say yes. We believe honesty is a moral imperative, and we try to instill this belief in our children. Classic morality tales like “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and “Pinocchio” speak to the dangers of dishonesty, and children who lie a lot, or who start lying at a young age, are often seen as developmentally abnormal, primed for trouble later in life.
But research suggests the opposite is true. Lying is not only normal; it’s also a sign of intelligence.
Kids discover lying as early as age 2, studies have found. In one experiment, children were asked not to peek at a toy hidden behind them while the researcher withdrew from the room under false pretenses. Minutes later, the researcher returned and asked the child if he or she peeked.
This experiment, designed by the developmental psychologist Michael Lewis in the mid-1980s and performed in one form or another on hundreds of kids, has yielded two consistent findings. The first is that a vast majority of children will peek at the toy within seconds of being left alone. The other is that a significant number of them lie about it. At least a third of 2-year-olds, half of 3-year-olds and 80 percent or more of children 4 and older will deny their transgression, regardless of their gender, race or family’s religion.
Children are also remarkably good at lying. In a series of additional studies based on the same experimental model, a range of adults — including social workers, primary-school teachers, police officers and judges — were shown footage of kids who were either lying or telling the truth about having committed a transgression, with the aim of seeing who could spot the liars. Astonishingly, none of the adults (not even the kids’ parents) could consistently detect the lies.
Continue reading the main story
Why do some children start lying at an earlier age than others? What separates them from their more honest peers? The short answer is that they are smarter.
Professor Lewis has found that toddlers who lie about peeking at the toy have higher verbal I.Q.s than those who don’t, by as much as 10 points. (Children who don’t peek at the toy in the first place are actually the smartest of all, but they are a rarity.)
Other research has shown that the children who lie have better “executive functioning skills” (an array of faculties that enable us to control our impulses and remain focused on a task) as well as a heightened ability to see the world through other people’s eyes, a crucial indicator of cognitive development known as “theory of mind.” (Tellingly, children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which is characterized by weaker executive functioning, and those with spectrum disorders such as autism, which are characterized by deficits in theory of mind, have trouble with lying.) Young liars are even more socially adept and well adjusted, according to recent studies of preschoolers.
The psychologist Kang Lee, who has been researching deception in children for more than two decades, likes to tell parents that if they discover their child lying at age 2 or 3, they should celebrate. But if your child is lagging behind, don’t worry: You can speed up the process. Training children in executive functioning and theory of mind using a variety of interactive games and role-playing exercises can turn truth-tellers into liars within weeks, Professor Lee has found. And teaching kids to lie improves their scores on tests of executive functioning and theory of mind. Lying, in other words, is good for your brain.
For parents, the findings present something of a paradox. We want our children to be clever enough to lie but morally disinclined to do so. And there are times when a child’s safety depends on getting at the truth, as in criminal cases involving maltreatment or abuse. How can we get our children to be honest?
In general, carrots work better than sticks. Harsh punishments like spanking do little to deter lying, research indicates, and if anything may be counterproductive. In one study, Professor Lee and the developmental psychologist Victoria Talwar compared the truth-telling behaviors of West African preschoolers from two schools, one that employed highly punitive measures such as corporal punishment to discipline students and another that favored more tempered methods like verbal reprimands and trips to the principal’s office. Students at the harsher school were not only more likely to lie but also far better at it.
Witnessing others being praised for honesty, meanwhile, and nonpunitive appeals for the truth — for example, “If you tell the truth, I will be really pleased with you” — promotes honest behavior, Professors Lee and Talwar have found.
So does a simple promise. Multiple studies have shown that children as old as 16 are less likely to lie about their misdeeds, and the misdeeds of others, after pledging to tell the truth, a result that has been replicated widely. The psychologist Angela Evans has also found that children are less likely to peek at the toy while the researcher is out of the room if they promise not to. Curiously, this works even with children who don’t know the meaning of the word “promise.” Merely securing a verbal agreement — “I will tell the truth” — does the trick. By the end of infancy, it would seem, children already grasp the significance of making a verbal commitment to another person.
As for those childhood morality tales, you might want to skip the more ominous ones. Professor Lee and others have found that reading stories to children about the perils of deceit, such as “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” and “Pinocchio,” fails to discourage them from lying. Reading them the story of George Washington and the cherry tree, on the other hand, in which truthfulness is met with approval, does reduce lying, albeit to a modest degree. The key to fostering honest behavior, Professor Lee and his colleagues argue, is positive messaging — emphasizing the benefits of honesty rather than the drawbacks of deception.
You can also simply pay kids to be honest. In research involving 5- and 6-year-olds, Professor Lee and his colleagues attached a financial incentive to telling the truth about a misdeed. Lying earned children $2, while confessing won them anywhere from nothing to $8. The research question was: How much does the truth cost? When honesty paid nothing, four out of five children lied. Curiously, that number barely budged when the payout was raised to $2.
But when honesty was compensated at 1.5 times the value of lying — $3 rather than $2 — the scales tipped in favor of the truth. Honesty can be bought, in other words, but at a premium. The absolute dollar amount is irrelevant, Professor Lee has found. What matters is the relative value — the honesty-to-dishonesty exchange rate, so to speak.
“Their decision to lie is very tactical,” Professor Lee said. “Children are thinking in terms of the ratio.” Smart kids, indeed.
Continue reading the main story

Parenting and Family Programs at Families First 2018

Families First in Portsmouth, NH offers some wonderful parenting and family programs. Here is an update for January and February, 2018. For more information about their parenting and family programs or to register to        Directions

New Sweetser school-based clinician at Mitchell School

Hello! My name is Lori Austin, LCSW and I am so excited to be at Mitchell School this year as the new Sweetser clinician.  Sweetser is a Maine behavioral healthcare organization for children, adults and families.  School-based therapy is one of the many services that Sweetser offers. While I work out of the school and am able to collaborate with Mitchell School staff, I am not employed by the Kittery School Department. My services are billed through insurance.
I graduated from Boston College with two Master’s Degrees in Social Work and Pastoral Ministry and completed my undergraduate degree at Penn State University with a B.S. in Health Education. I am a Licensed independent Clinical Social Worker in the state of Maine. I’ve worked in a variety of Social Work settings mostly working with children and families.  I love family work and fostering self-esteem and growth in children.  Affirmations and healing are the cornerstone of my belief system.  I utilize cognitive-behavioral therapy, family systems and play therapy as my therapeutic modalities.
Over the past four years I worked as a Military and Family Life Counselor locally and abroad. I feel immensely blessed to have had the gift of travel working in Okinawa, South Korea and England as a  counselor working in schools and daycare centers. It has been and honor and a pleasure serving military families. 
In my spare time I can be found hanging with my Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Lucy. Or running many miles around Eliot and Portsmouth. I love drinking coffee and being with friends. I am a proponent of good self-care and treating ourselves kindly so we can do that for others.  I know school personnel work extremely hard and I thank you for allowing me to be part of your team.
There are two ways to access the services I provide in the school. The first way is to consult with Emma Kilgore or Dana Rickerich to fill out a referral, which in turn will be passed along to me.  The other way is to contact me directly and we can talk about any struggles your child may be experiencing.
Please contact me if you have any questions.
Contact: or (207)844-0824. My office is in the kindergarten wing.
Hours at Mitchell School: Monday through Friday, 7:30-3.

Sweetser Information
PromiseLine: 1-800-434-3000
The PromiseLine can be used to find out information about all Sweetser services and gain access to these services.

Crisis Hotline: 1-888-568-1112 available 24 hours a day, 7 Days a week.

Book review -- After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again

Check out one of our new favorite books -  After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat.  It is beautiful in every way.

Everyone knows that when Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. But what happened after?

Follow Humpty Dumpty, an avid bird watcher whose favorite place to be is high up on the city wall―that is, until after his famous fall. Now terrified of heights, Humpty can longer do many of the things he loves most.

Will he summon the courage to face his fear?

Thank you to the Kathleen Whalin, the children's librarian at York Public Library for bringing this book to our attention.

How can children develop skills to be more resilient?

November 20, 2017
“We don’t have to wrap our kids in bubble wrap,” says GSE professor Jelena Obradović. (Photo: Getty Images/Anna Isaeva)
“We don’t have to wrap our kids in bubble wrap,” says GSE professor Jelena Obradović. (Photo: Anna Isaeva/Getty Images)
Kids who recover more quickly from stress share certain traits, says GSE professor Jelena Obradović.
Could singing, dancing and playing peekaboo help kids learn to recover from challenging experiences?
Absolutely, according to Jelena Obradović, an associate professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education and director of the Stanford Project on Adaption and Resilience in Kids (SPARK).
In this episode of School’s In, Obradović joined GSE Dean Dan Schwartz and Senior Lecturer Denise Pope to talk about how early experiences shape children’s sensitivity and how those who are especially sensitive to stress and negative experiences can become more resilient.
Playful activities can teach kids how to manage their emotions and behaviors, she said, which is key to building the capacity to recover from stress. “We often want kids to behave in a certain way in the context of them acting out, showing anger or whatnot,” she said. “But there are a lot of ways to learn self-regulation in a positive way.”
Listen from the link below, and find more episodes of School's In at the Stanford Radio main page. The show airs Saturdays on SiriusXM Insight Channel 121.

Parent Education Seminars this Wed, Dec 6

We invite you to come any or all of the upcoming Parent Education Seminars.  The morning seminars will be held at the Kittery Community Center; the evening seminar will be held at Traip Academy.

These seminars are free to parents thanks to the Department of Defense grant that the Kittery School District was awarded.  They are open to ALL parents, regardless of the school in which your child is enrolled and whether you are a military-connected family or a civilian family.

Please join us!

WinterKids FunPass

If you haven't had a chance to check out WinterKids, now is the time!  WinterKids is now in its 20th year and has helped over 100,000 Maine children to be active outdoors in the winter through unique education programs statewide.  The passport is for older students -- but the WinterKids FunPass is perfect for Mitchell School students.   Learn more at

WinterKids FunPass

The science of gratitude - How gratitude leads to good health and happiness

Teaching and modeling gratitude for our children can be hard work. The following article from the Center for Parenting Education teaches us how to instill an attitude of gratitude in our children.  Center for Parenting Education - gratitude

The infographic from Happify collects much of the current data about how gratitude leads to good health and happiness  - Infographic by Happify

Zones of Regulation

Many parents have asked for more information about the Zones of Regulation, a framework that we use at Mitchell School to foster self-regulation and emotional control.  

 Zones of Regulation website

Other resources:
Zones of Regulation - slideshow presentation
Zones of Regulation - YouTube

From the Zones of Regulation website:


Self-regulation is something everyone continually works on whether or not we are cognizant of it.  We all encounter trying circumstances that test our limits from time to time.  If we are able to recognize when we are becoming less regulated, we are able to do something about it to manage our feelings and get ourselves to a healthy place.  This comes naturally for some, but for others it is a skill that needs to be taught and practiced. This is the goal of The Zones of Regulation (or Zones for short). 


The Zones is a systematic, cognitive behavioral approach used to teach self-regulation by categorizing all the different ways we feel and states of alertness we experience into four concrete colored zones.  The Zones framework provides strategies to teach students to become more aware of and independent in controlling their emotions and impulses, manage their sensory needs, and improve their ability to problem solve conflicts.  

By addressing underlying deficits in emotional and sensory regulation, executive functioning, and social cognition, the framework is designed to help move students toward independent regulation.  The Zones of Regulation incorporates Social Thinking® ( concepts and numerous visuals to teach students to identify their feelings/level of alertness, understand how their behavior impacts those around them, and learn what tools they can use to manage their feelings and states.  


The Red Zone is used to describe extremely heightened states of alertness and intense emotions.  A person may be elated or experiencing anger, rage, explosive behavior, devastation, or terror when in the Red Zone. 

The Yellow Zone is also used to describe a heightened state of alertness and elevated emotions, however one has more control when they are in the Yellow Zone.  A person may be experiencing stress, frustration, anxiety, excitement, silliness, the wiggles, or nervousness when in the Yellow Zone.

 Green Zone is used to describe a calm state of alertness. A person may be described as happy, focused, content, or ready to learn when in the Green Zone.  This is the zone where optimal learning occurs.

 Blue Zone is used to describe low states of alertness and down feelings such as when one feels sad, tired, sick, or bored.

The Zones can be compared to traffic signs.  When given a green light or in the Green Zone, one is “good to go”.  A yellow sign means be aware or take caution, which applies to the Yellow Zone.  A red light or stop sign means stop, and when one is the Red Zone this often is the case.  The Blue Zone can be compared to the rest area signs where one goes to rest or re-energize.  All of the zones are natural to experience, but the framework focuses on teaching students how to recognize and manage their Zone based on the environment and its demands and the people around them.  For example, when playing on the playground or in an active/competitive game, students are often experiencing a heightened internal state such as silliness or excitement and are in the Yellow Zone, but it may not need to be managed.  However, if the environment is changed to the library where there are different expectations  than the playground, students may still be in the Yellow Zone but have to manage it differently so their behavior meets the expectations of the library setting.


As an occupational therapist and autism resource specialist working in public schools for six years, I frequently had students on my caseload who were struggling not just with sensory-regulation but also emotional regulation.  Too often the time spent with their non-disabled peers was being limited due to my students' frequent outbursts and inability to cope effectively.  Adopting Ross Greene’s mantra, “Kids do well if they can” (The Explosive Child, 2006), students were frequently being punished for disruptive behaviors rather than being taught skills to control their behavior.  While taking graduate coursework on Autism Spectrum Disorders and Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder, I had the idea to create the concept of The Zones of Regulation to teach students to self-regulate their sensory needs as well as their emotions and impulses in order to meet the demands of the environment and be successful academically and socially.  

After successfully piloting and expanding on my concept with the students I worked with over a few years, I was encouraged by my colleagues to create a curriculum to support my concept.  The Zones of Regulation concept was influenced by the work of Williams and Shellenberger’s The Alert Program® (1994) and Kari Dunn Buron and Mitzi Curtis’ The Incredible 5 Point Scale (2003).   As I was designing the curriculum, I integrated best practices in the field of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) into the curriculum and conducted extensive background research in the area of self-regulation, including sensory regulation, emotional regulation, and executive functioning.  I also researched how these processes relate to children with ASD and ADHDs’ learning styles.  By integrating principles of Simon Baron Cohen’s Systemizing Theory, The Zones provides a system to classify states of arousal, feelings, and emotions into four easily identifiable distinct color-coded Zones.  Creating a system such as The Zones to categorize all the complex feelings students experience eases their ability to recognize and communicate how they are feeling, as well as tap into strategies to aid them in self-regulation.  While designing the curriculum, I incorporated Michelle Garcia Winner’s Social Thinking® concepts to help students become more aware of how others are perceiving them when they are regulated versus in less regulated states.  By tying in Social Thinking concepts, the lessons on self-regulation become more meaningful to the students’ lives as they gain a deeper understanding of the impact their behavior has on their relationships.  Learning activities entail the use of cognitive behavior management strategies to reinforce the use of The Zones of Regulation throughout the student’s day.  By using cognitive behavior management, the students learn how to self-monitor and reflect on the effectiveness of their regulation strategies.  This method allows students to move away from staff prompts to regulate and to assume personal responsibility in self-regulation.