PITTSBURG — Tuesday, Lakeside fourth graders donned Santa hats and brought in stockings full of gifts for residents at Guest Home Estates.
The school is working on ‘growth mindset projects,’ where each month students practice different focuses of study — December’s word is empathy.
“We have explained to the students that empathy simply means: an understanding of how someone is feeling because we can imagine what it’s like to be them or stand in their shoes,” Lakeside Principal Rhonda White said in a release. “Our feeling is that empathy is a growth mindset that will help our kids develop at strong, positive emotional state in which they can treat others with respect, giving them a glimpse into the heart of another person.”
On Tuesday, 75 fourth graders packed into the residents’ dining room to practice how to be empathetic. They gave each resident a gift, shared stories and sang carols.
Fourth grade student Brayden Brewer said he gave a stocking to a resident named Paul. He said Paul was thankful and the two talked about Christmas.
Another fourth grade student Kaitlyn Allen said she was glad to meet the residents.
“They were happy and I like that they are happy,” she said.
According to Fourth Grade Teacher Babs Tims, the stockings, stuffed animals and candy were all the students’ idea. Additional items such as socks, packaged tissues, hand lotion were also included.
Tims said the students read about different ways to show empathy, including “walking in someone else’s shoes” and “giving from wealth is giving from the heart.”  
To do this, they thought about things the residents may want and need. The students helped pay for the gifts by creating a coupon book which they sold to their parents. The book had various prompts for things they could do for whatever price their parents wanted to pay.
Along with the stockings, the students brought in handmade blankets they made. The students made the fleece blankets in math class, where they practiced measuring.
The experience will last much longer than the one hour visit — the students and the residents have become pen pals and will be sending letters back and forth.
The residents have already sent the students Christmas cards, kicking-off the beginning of their relationship. Tuesday’s visit helped put a face with a name, Tims said.
The visit was beneficial to both the students and the residents, “because of the high energy the kids bring to the residents,” Guest Home Estates Manager Shelley Gromer said.
One of the residents said the children’s visit was “wonderful.”
“I’m looking forward to it next year,” Patsy Huston said. “I’ve enjoyed it very much.”
Raymond Martinez, who sang along with the children during the Christmas caroling, said the students made his day.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at spotter@morningsun.net or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.