Glenwood Middle School students show thanks the old-fashioned way, with many hand-written notes of gratitude
Glenwood Springs Middle School technology teacher Stacey Maule goes old-school each November when it comes to having her students express their thanks.
As part of her regular sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade “crew” character-building sessions, students are asked to hand-write messages of gratitude for a series of exercises calling attention to the meaning of Thanksgiving.
“We do this every year at this time, which also fits really well with our Veterans Day program, because it’s another element of showing gratitude,” Maule said.
One of the exercises involves old-fashioned letter-writing — right down to penning a note of thanks to someone in the students’ world of influence, putting it an envelope, addressing, stamping and sealing it, and dropping it in the mail.
“It’s a dying art, but it’s something we feel is really important,” Maule said.
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“It’s a practice that stemmed from many years ago with my own children. When they got a gift, they were not allowed to use it or wear it until they wrote a thank-you note.”
The lesson continues into December, when Maule’s students learn about giving through words and actions, rather than physical gifts.
The whole school gets involved in three other ways.
One is a “gratitude wall” that greets students, staff and visitors near the GSMS entryway. There, students have written a personal note to someone within the school who they are grateful for and displayed it on the long window that looks into the media center.
Another is a handprint wreath project, where students trace their hand on construction paper and cut it out, then write something they are thankful for on each finger.
The hands are assembled into multiple wreaths that are displayed on classroom doors and other places around the school building.
The third project is a “gratitude chain,” where students again identify someone they are grateful for and write their name on a strip of construction paper with a short message about how that person made a difference in their life.
The strips are connected to make a chain that’s hung along the hallway for as long as it stretches.
“It joins us as a crew and a community,” Baylee Burton, an eighth-grade student at GSMS, said. “I’ve learned that there’s a lot more than just yourself in the world and that you need to show that you’re thankful — not just at Thanksgiving — and that there’s more than just your little bubble.”
Sixth-grader Eric Laroche agreed.
“I learned that you can believe in yourself, but it’s not just all about you,” he said.
While stringing up this year’s chain, student Zoe Worley said they found a strip from last year that was still stuck in the ceiling.
“It just said they were thankful for their freedom,” she said. “It’s a great experience that everyone gets to be a part of.”
Appropriately enough, GSMS band teacher Chane Smith has the privilege each year of hanging the gratitude chain.
“It’s really easy to get sucked into negativity, and when you think about even the tiny things that make you happy — like, I had enough milk for my cereal today — even those little gratitudes … really can turn a day that’s not so great into something that’s at least tolerable, and makes you happy,” Smith said of the annual Thanksgiving project.
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