Goodnow School responds to hateful graffiti with ‘Colors of Kindness’ chalk art

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Photo by/Jesse Kucewicz
A number of students decorate parts of the Goodnow Elementary School campus with chalk.

By Cindy Zomar, Education Coordinator

MARLBOROUGH – When a juvenile vandalized the brand new Goodnow Brothers Elementary School in Marlborough with antisemitic graffiti, outraged staff members took on the challenge to turn it around and do something positive. 

Their answer, based on responses to similar incidents in other towns, was “Chalk the Walk Wednesday with Colors of Kindness.”

“Our PBIS [Positive Behavior Intervention and Support] team wracked our brains to find a way to make something better out of this,” explained School Adjustment Counselor Amy Fitzgibbon. “The results were amazing, even better than we anticipated!” 

‘Chalk the Walk’ prompts colorful celebration

At the peak of the event, April 7, nearly 700 Goodnow students gathered to decorate their campus with chalk drawings

Art instructor Robea Nordman created a lesson on street art and the use of symbols and pictures, while classroom teachers prepared age-appropriate dialogue on how to respond to hateful rhetoric. 

Other staff members arranged an upbeat playlist of music, using outdoor speakers to keep the day rocking as students did their best to emulate their art lessons. 

With each grade level donning a specific class color, the school grounds were a rainbow of hues. Staff recall that the smiles and laughter were contagious. 

Principal Amy Mulkerin echoed Fitzgibbon’s excitement, adding that even while wearing masks, social distancing, and using only ‘personal’ chalk pieces, the school community came together in a celebration of kindness. 

Marlborough High School Principal Dan Riley and School Resource Officer Ryan Braswell also joined the group, bringing National Honor Society (NHS) students to assist younger students.

Those NHS volunteers particularly helped students make bilingual statements when they wanted to do so. 

Mulkerin hopes that the interaction of the age groups was the first of many joint ventures with her school’s campus neighbors at MHS. 

As some students remained at home, having opted for remote learning following a statewide push to phase out hybrid learning models, Mulkerin said they still participated in Goodnow’s chalk celebration, sending photos of their own creations in their driveways and sidewalks. 

Goodnow educators celebrate teaching moments

Goodnow invited families to walk the grounds in the evening, April 7, to see chalk displays. Many took advantage of the opportunity, Mulkerin said. 

“We wanted students to understand that when things are out of our control and we are upset or hurt or sad and don’t know what to do with it, we take back control with acceptance, inclusivity, love and support,” Fitzgibbon explained of the entire event. 

Following a fifth-grade class back into the building, she recalled, she overheard a student say, “It was a bad thing that those people did, but look at what we were able to do with it.”