More than 600 vividly colored rocks line both sides of the Shackelford Elementary entrance to create a first-of-its-kind Kindness Garden.

The two streams of rocks display a variety of stones painted with a unique design that symbolizes the different of strengths of each student.

The Shackelford counseling and art departments teamed up for the project. The students’ inspiration stemmed from the book, “Only One You” by Linda Kranz. The reading was prompted by a curriculum created by district counselors, which is based on the state standard.

Elementary school counselors meet biweekly with every class to discuss values and character building. This time around, the theme was "kindness."

Shackelford principal Theresa Burkhalter said the program helps combat bullying.

“It’s to address bullying before it happens. We want the kids to understand what kindness is and how important it is so it heads off some of the interpersonal troubles students may otherwise [encounter],” Burkhalter explained.

Having the heartfelt display at the front of the school reminds the students of kindness when they arrive and when they leave, it's to take that kindness with them.

Burkhalter noticed the students taking ownership of the Kindness Garden, pointing out the rock they created to their parents and classmates.

“I know a lot of parents and community members who walk in, everyone has commented on the difference it’s made as they walk up and see a happy appearance for the building,” Theresa elaborated.

But, the Kindness Garden does not stop at the front door.

Burkhalter expects this action to become a tradition so the garden will grow. She mentioned graduating seniors that once walked the halls of Shackelford would paint a rock to leave their mark along with the kiddos. This will take place during the second annual Senior Serve Day on May 21.

When asked if bullying was more prominent in elementary or middle school, Shackelford counselor Monica Taylor expressed it’s “everywhere.”

“The thing with bullying, when you can’t see the precious differences between people, we become judgmental and critical of those judgments. And, if we can learn to see those differences as positives, and not be afraid of them, then that’s when bullying goes away,” Taylor explained.

Each rock is different and individualized, which represents the strength that each student brings to the table. "Together, they create a masterpiece," Taylor expressed.

Tammy Kline, the art teacher, reread the book to the students before painting their rocks to refresh the message of going out in the world to spread kindness.

“We talked about how differences — how everyone is different, yet, we are all alike. And how they could paint their rock to represent them,” Kline explained.

Students painted anything from rainbows to potatoes to minions and scripture on their rocks.

“They were thrilled because they wanted to do this all year long,” Kline said. “This was an exciting project for them to do. We do lots of projects, but this was one that really seemed deeper than just doing an art project.”

The students laid the rocks out on April 13 and that following Friday, the school conducted a dedication ceremony to Home Depot since Justin Cattermole donated the stones.

Fifth-grader Avery McBride pointed out her blue acrylic painted rock. She picked it up and read, “Dream amazing dreams even if it is about a potato.”

What she enjoyed most about the decorative entry piece is how the different rocks represent all of the creative personalities inside the school. As she comes and goes from school, “I think of how every kid has a different style, and I love each one.”


Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450