Skillin Elementary School is encouraging students to spread positive messages in the spirit of Valentine’s Day. Sarah Maxwell courtesy photo

SOUTH PORTLAND — Students at Skillin Elementary School are encouraging one another to “spread the love,” making decorations for their home windows that can be seen throughout the community.

Besides decorating the school building in festive Valentine’s Day hearts and colors, students are designing paper hearts to hang in their windows at home, said Sarah Maxwell, RTI instructional strategist at Skillin School. Some, along with teachers, have even started community outreach projects.

“Fourth grade, led by teachers Stephanie Smart, Nick Minor, and Jenna Nappi, organized and spearheaded a project to collect spare change for the Maine Needs project,” Maxwell said. “They then used the money to buy supplies to make art kits and cleaning kits for Maine families in need.”

A Skillin School student decorating a heart for the school’s Spread the Love project in an instructional video for students. Courtesy photo

Principal Bethany Connolly said the “Spread the Love” project is an attempt to combine traditional Skillin projects and other community projects the school worked on last spring, when everything was fully remote.

“Our school goes by the tenets of being safe, responsible, respectful and kind,” she said. “A project like this reinforces the school community. I think during this time kids can feel isolated from each other and their peers. It’s just a way of maintaining that connection and reminding kids we’re still one whole school community even though we can’t all be together in the way we typically are.”

Students are in school for a maximum of twice a week, said Connolly. Even though the distance can be challenging, positivity still exists, and that’s what the project is hoping to convey.

“Our kids who come in-person come two days a week, and every adult who works in the school I’ve talked to has said, ‘Two days isn’t enough but it’s so much better than not having them in school at all,'” Connolly said. “The impact I hope it has is to remind people we’re still a community and school is an integral part to that. We think about and care for our students even when they’re learning from home.”

Valentine’s Day is a universal holiday that can be all about kindness and caring, said Maxwell.

“I think everyone needs a little light-heartedness right about now,” she said. “So I think more than anything it’s a chance to let kids be kids and enjoy the spirit of caring and friendship, and it’s something that can happen inside and outside of school with their family and friends inside school.”

Connolly said the project is also easy for students to complete, doesn’t need too many materials and doesn’t take too much time.

“It’s a nice opportunity to share the love, to just remind kids that they’re each special in the school community,” she said.

Sarah Maxwell courtesy photo

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