Young students’ project has Hamilton rockin’ with positive messages

Mason Kelley, a fourth-grader at Fairwood Elementary School shows one of the rocks he decorated as part of a class project. Rocks painted with inspirational messages will be left around the city to raise the spirits of those who find them. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

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Mason Kelley, a fourth-grader at Fairwood Elementary School shows one of the rocks he decorated as part of a class project. Rocks painted with inspirational messages will be left around the city to raise the spirits of those who find them. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

You may find the class project from Fairwood Elementary students under your shoe soon so keep your eyes open for a ground-level, colorful, happy and even inspirational surprise.

Fairwood fourth-grade teacher Robin Szary’s students are painting and decorating small rocks with motivational messages that will pick up the spirits of those in Hamilton’s north end community when they discover the rocks.

Her students have begun to spread the message stones around the neighborhood at strategic spots so they can be easily spotted, enjoyed and — the students hope — shared with others.

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The unusual project — dubbed “HamiltonRocks” — is spreading globally, but for Szary’s class it was also born of grief.

A 10-year-old girl in Szary’s class died unexpectedly in December. Szary adopted the idea as a way for the students to memorialize their former classmate and to stay positive by spreading positive messages to strangers beyond the school’s campus.

“It’s been a tough year and kids really don’t understand the loss of a classmate so I knew this would be something right up their alley,” said Szary. She said the students came up with the idea of including the little girl’s first initial – “E” – on some of their rocks in her honor.

“The idea behind the project is to spread kindness, to choose words that will uplift anybody who is going to find the rock,” she said.

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Some examples of messages on the colorfully painted rocks — which are store-bought, river-smoothed rocks about 2 to 3 inches in diameter — include: “Smile;” “Be Cool;” “Be Happy;” “Be Kind;” and “Don’t Bully” among others.

The back of the colorful rocks feature a standardized note — glued and sealed with enamel coating — urging the finder to follow and post a message about the rock on the Hamilton Rocks #TheKindnessRocksProject Facebook page.

“We just started last week and we’re already up to 350 likes on the Facebook page,” she said.

Finders are urged to not be keepers, as students hope the dozens of rocks will be shared as gifts or placed out in the community by the finders to further spread the goodwill.

“Some of the kids told me they placed them near a neighbor’s house or near somebody who is having a rough day,” Szary said.

Joni Copas, spokeswoman for Hamilton City Schools, said district officials are delighted by the stone-aged outreach to the extended school community.

“HamiltonRocks is a great way for the students to share their good cheers and happy smiles throughout our community. The positive messages and cute pictures should spread some joy to everyone who finds these hidden gems,” said Copas.

That prospect makes fourth-grader Camryn Cecere happy.

“We can spread more kindness than the usual way,” she said. “I’m going to paint a ton of rocks and place them on every door step.”

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