Pink Shirt Day is an important day on the Canadian school calendar.
As much as schools have advanced over the years, one thing remains – bullying is still a prominent issue. Although many schools have taken preventative measures against bullying, it can still be an issue that needs to be addressed year after year.
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In Canada, two high school students started a movement to stand up against bullying, leading to a nationwide movement – Pink Shirt Day.
What is Pink Shirt Day?
Pink Shirt Day was started in 2007 by two high school students, David Shepherd and Travis Price, in Nova Scotia. When a fellow classmate wore a pink shirt to school and was bullied for it, the two boys took action and took a stand against the bullies. They distributed pink shirts to their classmates, and all wore them to school the next day in solidarity.
In Canada, the last Wednesday of February is known as Pink Shirt Day, a day to raise awareness of the harmful impacts of bullying and promote compassion, kindness, and inclusivity. It has become a nationwide movement across Canada and is recognized in schools nationwide.
Related to Pink Shirt Day, there is also the International Day of Pink, which falls on the second Wednesday in April. While Pink Shirt Day is a Canadian initiative, the International Day of Pink spans the globe, being celebrated in schools, workplaces, and communities worldwide.
What is the message of Pink Shirt Day?
Just as David Shepherd and Travis Price stood in solidarity with their bullied classmate, today, students across Canada continue the tradition of wearing a pink shirt on the last Wednesday of February. But why is it so important?
Bullying is a huge issue. Pink Shirt Day is a day that reaffirms the message that bullying is never okay. Everyone has the right to feel safe, included, and respected.
Bullying, on the other hand, can cause detrimental effects. Victims can not only suffer from depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, but the effects of bullying are also long-lasting and can last well into adulthood.
Pink Shirt Day is a fantastic opportunity to take action and stand up against bullying. Schools and workplaces use the day to raise funds for anti-bullying initiatives and organizations that provide education and training to prevent bullying, as well as resources and support to victims.
How can I recognize Pink Shirt Day in the classroom?
Anti-bullying starts with you, and the best way you can recognize Pink Shirt Day in the classroom and stand against bullying is by promoting kindness. This can happen in many different ways:
- Wear pink shirts and encourage your students (as well as fellow teachers) to support the cause.
- Read books about bullying and discuss ways to promote kindness in the classroom. Create a display in the classroom or the library. See further down in this post for some book suggestions.
- Watch the West Shore RCMP Community Policing and Indigenous Policing unit join the Royal Bay Secondary School dancers in a flash mob to raise awareness for Pink Shirt Day.
- Create posters that have messages of kindness and respect. Post them around your classroom and school. Encourage other classes to do the same.
- Have a discussion with your class about how to create an inclusive and safe environment in the classroom. Let them brainstorm ideas about what they think an inclusive environment is and how the class or school can improve in this area.
- Share videos with your students that promote kindness, such as The Science of Kindness.
- Encourage them to make their own video or podcast about kindness. They can use resources such as the Podcast Creation Assignment to create a kindness podcast or the Good News Assignment to share good news events in their school. Check out these two resources: Podcast Creation Assignment – Shopify CAD or Teachers Pay Teachers USD and the Good News Assignment – Shopify CAD or Teachers Pay Teachers USD.
- Make sure you talk to your students about recognizing bullying and what to do if they see a student being bullied. Ensure they know who to talk to if they are being bullied or see someone being bullied. Let them know if they are ever struggling with mental health, there are resources available, such as the Kids Help Phone.
- Watch Travis Price talk about why he and David Shepherd started Pink Shirt Day. Show your students how amazing it is that only two students started a nationwide act and reinforce that anyone can change the world.
- Create a kindness challenge and encourage students to perform acts of kindness throughout the week or the month. Launch a school-wide kindness campaign. Encourage students to write thank you notes to the people who inspire them. You can also find a Thank You Note Writing Lesson on Shopify CAD or Teachers Pay Teachers USD.
- Have a school-wide event that promotes inclusivity and kindness. Invite guest speakers to share their stories and experiences with bullying and how they overcame it. You can also invite mental health experts to talk about the topic.
- To have students learn more about Pink Shirt Day, check out this video – Kids Explain | Pink Shirt Day | CBC Kids.
- Read picture books about kindness to your students. You can set these up as stations around your classroom with different activities at each book, or divide the students into groups, have them read the book and present the main idea to their peers.
Remember always to model kindness and respect in your classroom and encourage positive interactions. Teaching students to be kind is an ongoing process, but the results are powerful – everyone deserves a positive and supportive environment.
Books About Kindness and Anti-Bullying
- I Walk with Vanessa: A Story about a Simple Act of Kindness by Kerascoët – A wordless picture book, this story teaches the simple message of kindness and empathy. When one girl sees Vanessa being bullied, she gathers a group of students to walk with her.
- Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller, illustrated by Jen Hill – This story shows that even the smallest things can make a big difference.
- When We Are Kind by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Nicole Neidhardt – A heartwarming book about how to be kind to others and how kindness can be shown in many ways. It also talks about kindness to yourself and kindness to the earth.
Pink Shirt Day is a powerful reminder that acts of kindness of all sizes matter – even the smallest can have a big impact.
By wearing pink shirts and participating in activities and events, we can raise awareness about bullying and its effects while promoting positive values like respect, empathy, and inclusivity.
Although Pink Shirt Day falls on a single day in February, its message must go beyond February. Teach students that kindness and compassion should be something we strive for every day to create a safe, healthy, and inclusive society.
Spread Kindness With This Valentine’s Day Unit
One way to teach students about kindness and compassion is through this Valentine’s Day Unit. Valentine’s Day isn’t just about love and romance – especially for our middle school students. Instead of focusing on love, why not spread kindness during Valentine’s Day or during February?
With this Valentine’s Day Unit, there are many ways to teach students how to spread kindness – not only in the classroom but throughout the school, at home, and in their community.
This resource contains ten lessons:
- Introduction: Share Kindness With Others Challenge
- Lesson 1: The History of Valentine’s Day Non-Fiction Article
- Lesson 2: Valentine’s Day Opinion Questions
- Lesson 3: Fishbowl Class Discussion & Opinion Writing Assignment
- Lesson 4: Vending Machines Podcast Lesson
- Lesson 5: Valentine’s Day Choice Board
- Lesson 6: Valentine’s Day Creative Writing Assignment
- Lesson 7A: QR Code Vocabulary Search
- Lesson 7B: Valentine’s Day Word Detective, Word Search & Crossword Puzzle
- Lesson 8: Valentine’s Day Word Call Game
The Valentine’s Day Unit will have students expressing their creativity through choice board assignments and creative writing, sharing their opinions about Valentine’s Day, discovering ways to spread kindness, and having fun with their peers through various fun activities.
With Pink Shirt Day and Valentine’s Day, February is a month that should be devoted to kindness, friendship, and inclusivity.
Resources for Anti-Bullying
- Pink Shirt Day – Official Website
- Anti-Bullying & Youth Hotlines in the US and Canada
- Dealing With Bullying (for Teens) – Nemours KidsHealth
If you are reading this blog post and are in urgent need of emergency mental health care, please call your local emergency number (911 in North America) or reach out to the resources listed on this Get Help Now page from Better Help.