Briarcliff Fourth Graders Demonstrate Generosity and Empathy through their Actions 

How do you teach compassion to children? Simple: start early.  

Todd Elementary School fourth grade teachers Lorraine McDermott and Melissa Magliulo make a habit of introducing books about compassion to their students while encouraging conversations about empathizing with those less fortunate. One such conversation resulted in the students embarking on a project to prepare Valentine’s Day care packages to underserved children. 

A few days before Valentine’s Day, students brought to class a variety of items to include in the care packages. The students wrapped their donated books and items and made goody bags filled with chocolates, candy, socks, and other items, along with encouraging handwritten notes. 

“The most important thing,” Mrs. McDermott told the students, “is to write positive messages that make the person feel special. Your encouraging messages will be included in the gift bags. Children who may not get any other gifts for Valentine’s Day will receive them, so we want to make sure these recipients feel very, very special.” 

Both cohorts, as well as remote students, participated in the project by sending items to school beforehand. During class they sent Mrs. McDermott emails with positive messages, which she printed and included in the care packages. 

“I merely contributed socks, wrapping paper and ribbon, but the students brought in the rest,” Mrs. McDermott said. “It was all their idea. The class recently donated socks to at-need adults during the holiday season, which lead to the discussion of donating to children. The students made a plan that they would impact Valentine’s Day. This whole project was spearheaded by the students. Believe it or not, I didn’t even email the parents – it was all them!” 

The care packages will be delivered to places such as The Cottage School in Pleasantville, which is a residential facility for children. 

The students were excited to write special messages and put together the packages. They were thinking of the recipients as they prepared the gifts. “I hope they’ll be happy,” Aaron said and Chloe agreed. “I hope they smile and it makes anything bad that happened during their day go away,” she said. 

Now that they are done with the care packages the students are not resting on their laurels.“In the spring, our next project could be donating to an orphanage in Honduras. The students have had conversations about it. No matter what they choose to do, it will be driven by them. This is one compassionate group,” Mrs. McDermott said.

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