FOR THE RECORD

Oak Park Sprinkles Some Northside Happiness

Thursday, April 20th, 2017
Girls holds sign that read tell them you love them

Oak Park Elementary students sprinkled some happiness this morning for northside drivers.

There was none to be had from the usual source so Oak Park Elementary School brought its own sunshine to the Northside this morning. Taking turns by grade level they “sprinkled happiness” throughout their neighborhood by waving signs of affirmation and encouragement to passing traffic.

“You Are Delightful,” read one.

“Go Ahead and Shine”

“Sure You Can”

Big dump trucks honked happily. So did long semitrailers loaded with soda. Motorcycles revved and their riders waved. A passerby on the opposite side of the street who looked down on his luck and short on happiness brightened when he saw the children smiling and waving to him. He doffed his cap and waved it back at them, grinning irrepressibly. It was working.

Jessica Haugo is the Behavior Interventionist at Oak Park and she got the idea for this morning’s shot in the neighborhood’s arm at the district’s Climate & Culture Summit last August. The Happiness Sprinkling Project has gone from a hunch to a global scope in five years and was a presenter at the DMPS summit.

“I was impressed and thought it would be a good way to teach our kids that they can have an impact,” Haugo said as she led the first shift of 1st and 4th graders from school to the corner of 6th & Euclid Thursday morning. “Signs are forwarded from one event to the next, plus we created some of our own in class.”

Passing the signs and their messages forward to similar events creates a sense of a good vibe spreading and reinforces the notion that not only do children have influence, they have connections with counterparts beyond their home community.

“We are teaching students that kind is the new cool,” said Haugo, to quote the mantra plastered on some of the signs.

It’s a message that seemed to be coming naturally to the first group of the day, despite gray skies and chilly temperatures.

“This is kind of fun,” said 1st grader Wren Swigart. She was front and center, looking the part of a Happiness Ambassador with her sunshiny red hair braided in a ponytail and a beaming grin that featured some brand new teeth.

Wren and her classmates are relatively new to this kind of thing but Oak Park has been making an impact in the Hiland Park area for quite some time. Thursday’s branch of the Happiness Sprinkling Project is just the latest example of goodwill the school’s been spreading for 125 years, a milestone that will be observed later this spring.

In the meantime, if you’re happy and you know it, honk and wave!

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