Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed

          Can one good deed from one ordinary girl change the world? It can when she’s Ordinary Mary — an ordinary girl from an ordinary school, on her way to her ordinary house — who stumbles upon ordinary blueberries. When she decides to pick them for her neighbor, Mrs. Bishop, she starts a chain reaction that multiplies around the world. Mrs. Bishop makes blueberry muffins and gives them to her paperboy and four others — one of whom is Mr. Stevens, who then helps five different people with their luggage — one of whom is Maria, who then helps five people — including a man named Joseph who didn’t have enough money for his groceries — and so on, until the deed touches every single person on the planet and finally comes back to Mary.
          For many children going to school can be a challenging experience. Fear and insecurity can often cause great kids to act in less than positive and constructive ways. Bullying, targeted viciousness, and violence in our schools have become a national concern.
          In 2004, Orchard Elementary School in Orem, Utah found itself with an especially difficult 6th grade class. Many of these students, both male and female, were forming predatory cliques that seemed devoted to teasing, belittling and bullying other students before, during, and after school. “There was little empathy or respect for one another,” said Principal Brent Palmer, “A lot of the kids were wonderful, but those that were causing problems were pretty aggressive.”
          Deciding to take matters into her own hands, a mother of one of the “problem” boys asked his teacher, Lisha Hill, to allow her to try an experiment. She gathered all the 6th grade classes together and read them the book Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed.
          After reading and discussing this book, the entire 6th grade decided to set a goal of leaving their school with 15,000 good deeds by the time they graduated. The results were astounding. Not only did they reach their goal, but the entire tone and climate of the school changed as a result.
          “All the kids really became one cohesive group,” said Hill, “Popular kids started reaching out to less popular kids and several kids left cliques they were in and forged new friendships. It was really hard for some of them emotionally but it turned out to be a really great thing. This program pulled kids out of the shadows, included them in social interactions and made them more aware of the ratio of positive to negative things they do.”
          By taking the focus off of negative behaviors and getting children, teens, and even adults united in a positive goal, a difference can be made -- and that difference can be huge.
Since Orchard Elementary first started the Extraordinary Deeds Program in 2004, several other schools have implemented their own version of it as well. It's easy!
          First: Gather your students together and read the book. Talk about the difference that good deeds, big or small, make in people's lives.
          Second: Set a goal for the number of good deeds you would like to achieve within the school year. Create a way to chart your school's progress, a cute graph or counter, in the front of the school near the office.
          Third: Place boxes in the back of every classroom and provide small pieces of paper for writing. The children are not allowed to "tattle" on themselves - they must either write down a good deed that was done to them or one that they witnessed being done to another student. They write these down, slip them in the box and, at the end of the day, a special runner gets to deliver them to the office. Every day the good deeds are counted and added to the graph or counter displayed near the office.
          It's as simple as that. I have seen schools with giant graphs, small crafty signs with blueberry artwork and interchangeable numbers, special classroom boxes and note cards with Mary's image on them... It can be as simple or extravagant and decorative as you like. What it looks like is far less important than getting the kids started, getting them to focus on the feelings and needs of others and thinking of ways they can make their world a better place.
          Start this program in your school today. You will be amazed at the difference it makes!

“Emily Pearson deserves a huge thank-you for writing such a life changing story. I think everyone should read this children's book. We can change the world one deed at a time. We can make a difference.” Sherri Duffy - Mother

“This is a fabulous book. If you embrace the philosophies of service learning and making a difference, and it is important to you that your child or classroom of children understand and become civically responsible individuals, then this book is a great tool. It is an outstanding story for children from kindergarten through fifth grade (although some explaining and reviewing will be necessary for the younger children). Even though it is a story/picture book, the older children will enjoy it as well.” Donna M. Boyd: Kindergarten Teacher

"As a middle school teacher, I have used Emily Pearson’s book Ordinary Mary’s Extraordinary Deed for several years while working with my students to help them become kinder and more respectful of each other. I read the story to them and then challenge them to find ways to show kindness daily for the coming week. Many students have shared compelling stories of their successes. I think that children want to be caring and compassionate and are grateful for guidance in becoming so. Thank you Emily Pearson, for pointing the way." Rozan Gautier: Walnut Creek Intermediate School

“Children's books, like love and youth, are wasted on the young!! When I teach exponential growth to my Community College Intermediate Algebra adult students, I read them Ordinary Mary's Extraordinary Deed. They love to be read to, to see the pictures, and they are able to anticipate the final result. AND they then truly understand the power of raising to a power!! I also try to show a clip from "Pay It Forward." The math examples are important, but deep down, the power of giving and sharing is what I really hope they learn.” Mary Jo Anhalt: Bakersfield College