Second Graders Brush Up on Friendship...and Spread the Message All ’Round

Out for a leisurely autumn ramble and catch a glimpse of a glittering object almost hidden in the leaves...something not quite matching the hues of nature?

Stop your stroll! You may have discovered a rare treasure—an official Friendship Rock created by a Norfolk Academy second grader. If you have, then you’re in luck—and you’ve got a job to do (more on that in a moment).

To celebrate the school’s Year of Friendship, the second grade teachers decided to spread good cheer around with a whimsical project that drew on their students’ creativity and capacity for thinking of others. Each second grader brought in a rock, ideally one with a smooth surface, and painted a picture on it.

In addition, each rock includes some brief instructions: The discoverer should send a photo of himself or herself with the rock to; the rock could be kept (as a prized possession) or hidden again in a new location for some other fortunate wayfarer, who might need a dash of cheer to brighten the day.

Photos have already started arriving, said Anne Schafer, teacher in 2B, and the students are thrilled by the results. “At first, there was some disappointment that they would be giving the rocks away, after they had painted them so carefully,” she said. “Now, they feel better than they ever thought they would about making someone else’s day.”

Schafer got the idea for the project when she found an artfully painted rock on a visit to Baltimore; the rock, part of the Kindness Project, had a detailed painting of the city’s skyline. That project encouraged finders to post photos to Facebook, re-hide the rock, and follow the rock’s further adventures. Since second graders are not on Facebook, the second grade teaching team decided that they would collect the photos by email and share with their students.

Each second grader painted a rock, and every single one of the 73 spherical masterpieces reflected creativity and consideration. Annie G., a frequent visitor to the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, painted a sea turtle on her rock, because “every time I go to visit the aquarium, there’s a sea turtle looking at people and smiling.”

Reese A. painted a puppy’s face. “I think a lot of people on my bus like dogs, and a boy in my neighborhood likes dogs,” she said. “A lot of people like dogs! When I hide it, people will pick it up and smile.”

Beau B. began digging when he saw merely the tip of his rock, and he didn’t realize how big it was. But he kept digging and digging...and he eventually unearthed a hefty hunk of stone, upon which he painted gray mountains covered with snow. No, he said, “I haven’t climbed a mountain, but I thought it was a cool idea.”

Several students went for a direct message: Matthew B. and Drake W. painted smiley faces on their rocks, because “the smile makes you happy.” Ella T. painted an emoji and noted, “I wanted a colorful background, so everyone can think to be creative.”

As students daubed on the paint, they offered quick reflections on what makes a good friend— “kind,” “thoughtful,” and “comforting other people.” Riley L., who had painted a blend of pink, white, and red on her rock, observed: “A good friend would share and would not leave anyone out...and wouldn’t argue in line.”

So as you amble through the rustling leaves, keep a sharp lookout for Friendship Rocks—a way to share the spirit of friendship through art.