Sunshine Friendship Club Boosts the Mood…

Sunshine Friendship Club Boosts the Mood at Ferndale Lower Elementary

(Crystal A. Proxmire, April 29, 2019)

Ferndale, Oak Park, Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak Township, MI- The five young ladies of the Sunshine Friendship Club had not really known each other before a strange and wonderful force brought them together.

Now they have a bond of friendship, fun, and support that is so strong it’s spread though the entire Ferndale Lower Elementary building.

That force is Nan Kerr-Mueller, a mother and former social worker who saw an opportunity to make the world a better place by teaching the next generation a bit about kindness and love.

Niyair, Genesis, Anica, Eve, and Adelaide take a break from their classrooms each Tuesday to hang out at a table in the hallway to work on a mission of their own – helping other kids feel valued and accepted.

The club, made up of four second graders and one kindergarteners, write notes for children they think could use a boot, and puts them in the lockers.  Some are kids they’ve seen struggling.  Others are suggestions from teachers.

“I get to be like hee hee when they find it,” said Eve with a joyful smile.

“Sometimes if people are having a bad day you can say something nice and help them feel better,” Adelaide said.

Sunshine Friendship Club, a name the girls picked out themselves, also do a project that seems simple, yet works on so many levels – making friendship bracelets.

Kerr-Mueller taught the girls a bracelet-making method that requires the use of a foam disc with slits in it.  The thread is moved in a specific pattern that results in a beautifully woven gift.

The young ladies started out as strangers or acquaintances, but as their bracelets grew in length, their friendship grew in depth.

First they made bracelets for themselves. Then they made them to give away.  But then they decided they liked making bracelets so much, they’d like to teach other kids how to make them too.

Earlier in April, The Sunshine Friendship Club visited Ms. Smith’s second grade class. As Kerr-Mueller explained the process, Niyair, Genesis, Anica, Eve, and Adelaide went around the room teaching and encouraging the other kids.

Not only are the bracelets a fun craft, they serve an important physiological purpose.

“It helps if a kid is frustrated or angry because they’re not in the fight or flight part of their brain,” Kerr-Mueller said.

Explaining little bits about life and how our brains and bodies work is part of what makes the small group approach to learning work well.  With a stable group of friends apart from their normal classes, the girls get to open up. They talk about their own frustrations and mishaps.

One of the students opened up about how she had been mean to another girl on the bus, and writing an apology letter gave both girls a pathway to feeling better.  “I told her I was sorry,” the girl said.

Another was excited that she had been struggling with remembering an answer, but then she relaxed and she was able to remember.  To that, Kerr-Mueller said “Great job.  Kiss your brain!”

Kerr-Mueller approached the school about setting up a small mentoring group after meeting Genesis.  “My son Connor connected with Genesis on a school bus. We went and had a playdate and I got to know her and her mom,” she said.  “I started to hear more about what school is like for girls, and I thought this is an area where I can make a difference.”

For her one of the key points of the Sunshine Friendship Club is power.  “They’re learning to have that internal dialogue,” she said.  “They’re learning, ‘I have the power to turn somebody else’s day around.’”

Plus the girls have a special handshake, and their own little network of support outside the classroom.

Ferndale Schools has many opportunities for parent involvement.  “It’s a great experience to build connections and motivate students,” said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Dina Rocheleau.  “The more connections are students can make with others the stronger the neural connections become.  We have seen some incredible results from this simple concept and Mrs. Kerr-Mueller’s vision to making the world a place where we all belong.  Relationships matter.”

Learn more about Ferndale Schools at Ferndale Schools website

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