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Be The Yellow Day inspires kindness, positivity in Esko

Students at Winterquist Elementary learned about activities and things they can do to be positive and kind to other students and teachers.

Knutson Yellow Day
Kari Knutson holds up Yellow, a book by Adam Peterson during Esko's Be The Yellow Day, Monday, May 9, 2022.
Dylan Sherman / Cloquet Pine Journal
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ESKO — Winterquist Elementary School was filled with yellow signs and decorations as a part of Be The Yellow Day on Monday, May 9.

Students wore new yellow shirts to commemorate the day and passed greetings and compliments to each other as they walked the halls.

Kari Knutson, a kindergarten teacher, has had the idea for a couple of years and wanted to start a day that teaches positivity and kindness.

She got the idea after attending a conference and hearing a presentation from Adam Peterson, who presented on the topic of spreading kindness and positivity.

Knutson said she was inspired by Peterson's talk and wanted to bring his ideas into her classroom.

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"It just stuck with me that we need to be kind to each other," she said.

Peterson's mentor and friend , Honor, died in 2013, and to honor her legacy Peterson began speaking about the effect of teaching positivity and kindness to children.

Yellow comes from Honor's favorite color, and each letter of the word stands for something, according to Knutson.

The other letters stand for You, Engage, Listen, Learn, Offer and We. The letters also work together like listening and learning.

Yellow cutouts
Life-sized cutouts created by kindergarten students at Winterquist Elementary for Be The Yellow Day line a school hallway on Monday, May 9, 2022.
Dylan Sherman / Cloquet Pine Journal

Knutson arranged for Peterson to come to Winterquist and speak to students on April 26, which she said started off the excitement for the students.

Other than the signs and T-shirts, the school had life-size cutouts of kindergarten students, yellow heart-shaped notecards and even a yellow lunch, consisting of mac and cheese, corn dogs and pineapple.

Knutson and a few other teachers implemented a couple activities over the years themselves as part of the day, but this was the first year where the whole elementary school participated.

Despite the rain, the day started out with students in their new yellow shirts, posing outside for an aerial photo where they spelled out "Be Kind!"

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Be Kind photo
Winterquist Elementary Students spell out "Be Kind!" during the schools Be The Yellow Day, on Monday, May 9, 2022.
Contributed / Ethan Kilichowski

Allie Tacheny's third grade classroom was abuzz with students wearing their yellow shirts during recess.

"I think today is incredible," she said. "I like any time we can do social-emotional learning in the classroom because I think these are the skills these kids need to be successful in life."

The class took part in various activities throughout the week, including giving out compliments, calling family members they don't speak to as often and giving out short Post-It notes with positive messages.

Tacheny said the notes have been one of the biggest hits, and some of the messages have been things like, "You rock!" or "Have a nice day!"

"They don't have to be gigantic things; we can do little things to make people smile," she said.

With more and more people being on their phones or devices, Tacheny said this has also been a way for students to look up and engage with people around them.

"I think that is just going to make them be better people," she said.

Students in the class have enjoyed learning about it, and one of the students, Brynn Peterson, said the experience has been really good.

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Brynn said her favorite part of the Be the Yellow Day activities has been meeting new people around the school as people have been greeting each other and giving each other compliments.

"I like it so I can meet new people that I haven't known that much," she said.

She added that even her brother, who is the same age, has been nicer to her and helped her pick up her room and walk their dog.

Ty Symiczek who was playing "school" on whiteboards with Peterson and Rayna Williams, said one of his favorite things was spelling out "Be Kind!" in the morning.

After some discussion among the students, they agreed they were a part of the letter K.

The trio said they enjoyed sharing compliments and giving out positive messages to others.

"It can brighten people's day," Symiczek said.

Students Yellow Day
Rayna Williams, Ty Symiczek and Brynn Peterson sit together in the corner of their third grade classroom as they play "school" on whiteboards during recess on Monday, May 9, 2022.
Dylan Sherman / Cloquet Pine Journal

While this was the first full Be The Yellow Day, Knutson hopes it is not the last.

Knutson said she will be retiring this year, but plans to volunteer and substitute for the district, and would offer her help if officials want to continue the day in future years.

Principal Brian Harker said the day was a success.

"There has been a different feel in the air today," he said. "Now the goal is to not make it a one day thing."

Monday's Be the Yellow Day was done in part to recognize Knutson before her retirement, Harker said, and he thinks it could become a yearly event in the school.

"In recognition of her, I think it would be a good idea to do it yearly," he said.

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Dylan covers the local governments of Cloquet and Carlton County, as well as the Esko and Wrenshall school boards for the Cloquet Pine Journal.
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