During a walk around her neighborhood, Slippery Rock High School German teacher Megan Kramer would find painted rocks occasionally. After searching online, she discovered the Kindness Rocks Project and thought it could fit in nicely with foreign language instruction. And so, #SRDeutschRocks, or “Celebrating kindness across cultures,” began.
“My idea was to incorporate the idea into my lessons in order to not only teach German, but to also foster a culture of kindness in my classroom and beyond,” said Kramer, who teaches students in grades 9-12 in German I, II, III, IV and advanced placement. Her plan was to incorporate the idea into all of her lessons.
The students spent class time investigating the Kindness Rocks projects via websites and videos. They then used an instructional technique called “Think, Pair, Share” to brainstorm German words and phrases that the students knew. Phrases that were both kind and encouraging were emphasized by Kramer and the students spent time translating the phrases that they wanted to use into German. A list of acceptable words and sayings from the student collaboration groups were used.
“Whatever I teach, the main objective is to have students use German as authentic language,” Kramer said, noting the project let the students discover how they could turn some of their common English slang into German phrases that they could paint onto the rocks. “It really doesn't get much more authentic,” she said.
The students also had to learn a grammatical objective to be able to form commands such as “Sei ein Held” (Be a Hero), “Hab Mut (Have Courage), or “Gib nie auf” (Never give up). For the students in German I and II this was a new concept. It served as a valuable review and reinforcement for the upper levels.
The added objective of promoting kindness in the school or, Kramer puts it, “fostering a culture of kindness” within the SRHS community enhanced the lesson. Kramer acknowledged that this particular objective is difficult to measure but hopes to see the results over time through student-to-student interaction.
Katie Griffith, a student in one of the German classes, had a positive reaction to the project.
“The #SRDeutschRocks program has been a lot of fun to be a part of,” she said. “I can’t wait to see the response the public has to the rocks and the way in which they spread both kindness and a love for the German language.”
The kindness rocks will now be placed at various points throughout the Slippery Rock Area School District community. Residents might find rocks in Slippery Rock, Portersville, Harrisville, Prospect, Butler and points beyond Butler County, as well. Anyone who finds a rock is encouraged to snap a picture of it, email it to SRDeutschRocks@gmail.com and then re-hide the rock. Kramer will add the pictures to the Instagram site, “SRDeutschRocks.”
Alternatively, people can snap a picture and upload it to their Instagram sites and add the hashtag #SRDeutschRocks. A label on the back of the rocks instructs those who are lucky enough to find one. Kramer’s Instagram site will translate the phrases painted on the rocks.
There are already rocks in Oklahoma. Kindness Rocks will also be placed in Germany and Switzerland this summer when Kramer visits both places. “We want to get the whole community involved in the project, not just the German students and not even just the high school students,” she said.