PRINCETON — It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood at Lincoln Elementary School.
The third- and fourth-grade students came sporting their best cardigans on Tuesday in honor of the late Mr. Fred Rogers, and little acts of kindness were conducted throughout the week to pay homage to his legacy and also in the spirit of Thanksgiving.
PES teachers Cindy Smith and Nicki Butler collaborated on the idea for a recognition week for Mr. Rogers.
“With Thanksgiving all about being grateful, we thought what better way than to focus on him this week,” Butler said.
“There are so many ways to talk about Thanksgiving, and Mr. Rogers is a safe way to talk about kindness and plus the kids have never seen any of his episodes.”
Butler’s students got acquainted with one of America’s most well-known television personalities through old episodes of his series, “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” which aired from 1968 to 2001.
As students got a kick out of it, they also got plenty of lessons on the themes he displayed throughout his program. One of the biggest focuses this week was on kindness and empathy. Fourth-graders even teamed up with the third-graders to display acts of kindness. Students and teachers throughout the building also participated in a food drive, proceeds of which were donated to Bureau County Food Pantry.
PES teacher Cindy Smith said one of Mr. Rogers’ more important lessons was showing that no matter how bad a situation is, there are always people who want to help and be kind.
“He had such a soft, calming presence, and he was all about routine. ... I think kids are lacking that today,” she said.
Butler also pointed out that Mr. Rogers handled tough subjects such as racism, death and murder and was able to talk to kids about these in an age-appropriate way.
“He gave kids lessons on empathy. Kids are not born with empathy. It’s something they’re taught and they learn through experience. A lot of kids don’t have that, and so this is just another way to reinforce empathy and show that you can be that helper,” Butler said.