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Bedford Hills Second Graders Give Hats from the Heart

 Students hold up handmade hats at BHES Hats from the Heart event

A second grader proudly rang a bell in Bedford Hills Elementary School’s sunny cafeteria as his peers shouted out “Hats from the heart!” This scene played out again and again as the entire second grade worked together on a community service project before winter break.

This was the second year the second grade team held this event. When their traditional Valentine’s Day celebration was scrapped last year because of COVID restrictions, teachers decide to start a new tradition — one in which the whole grade joined together to give back to the community. Students made simple knotted hats that were donated to community organizations. This year, donations went to Neighbors Link and 914 Cares.

“I learned to make the hats when I was a first-grade teacher at Pound Ridge Elementary School,” said second grade teacher Jennifer Nordstrom. “I loved the project and always hoped to incorporate it into our second-grade activities here at Bedford Hills Elementary.”

With the help of parent volunteers and funds from Bedford Hills Elementary School Association, the fabric was prepped, the cafeteria was festively decorated and lots of extra hands were available to help students out.

“It was the first time in a long time we were able to have such a large group of parent support,” Nordstrom said. “It made the event a tremendous success!”

During the event, students made a hat — something which they practiced in their classrooms earlier — then added a gift tag, rang a bell to let their peers know a new hat was ready to be donated and then tallied their contribution before starting the process all over again.

Principal Zbyněk Gold even joined in on the fun, making a few hats of his own.

“The Bedford Hills community is incredibly generous to our school,” Gold said. “It is important for all of us to remember that there are others who need our help. We strive to instill a spirit of community and caring for others in our students. Everyone feels better when we are kind to each other. Events like this are another example of how we can turn up the kindness and turn down the competitiveness.”

Students had a lot of fun during the event, laughing with friends as their hands were busy making hats. Cecily said that she was going to wear her hat all winter while Jheel, who really liked making the pom pom at the top of each hat, said tying all of the knots was a little bit difficult.

While the event was a great way for students to spend time with each other, they kept sight of their purpose.

“I really like helping my community,” Margot noted.

“I like to donate stuff so other children who don’t have a lot can have more,” Jheel said.

Students were shocked at how many hats they were able to create in such a short amount of time. The final tally was 144.

“I thought we were going to make about 75,” said Ryan, who made two hats himself and took a special interest in counting up all of the tally marks.

Stephanie Rosado, Family Center Director for Neighbors Link, was at the event and let students know exactly how all those hats were going to help other children.

“I want to thank you so much for doing this,” she said to the students. “We are going to be distributing these hats to our three and four year olds and to our first graders at our afterschool program in Mount Kisco. They’re going to love them!”

After the event, Rosado reflected on the fact that the children receiving the hats would find just as much joy in them as the students who made the hats.

“Events like these foster a sense of community and unity,” Rosado said. “They remind us to be kind to one another and that there are so many ways to express love to our neighbors, near and far. My favorite part was seeing how joyful everyone was and how much fun the children had making these hats. The name tags added a personal touch. The warmest part of all is knowing that the children at Neighbors Link who will receive these hats are going to be just as happy.”

These warm, happy feelings were exactly what the second grade teachers hoped students would get from this project.

“We hope this experience creates a memory they will carry forever: An event that will remind them how fun second grade was and how good it feels to give,” Nordstrom said.

BHES student gets helping making hatBHES student tallies the hat she made