We’d like to thank all of our friends who joined us in celebrating the second annual Gift of Nothing Day! This special holiday, recognized on (or around) December 15, honors the true meaning of gift-giving and encourages everyone to spend time making memories with loved ones.
This year, we again heard from folks around the U.S. and beyond who embraced the idea of giving “nothing.” Here are a few of their stories.
Jamesville-DeWitt Middle School in Central New York
At Jamesville-DeWitt Middle School, all sixth-grade students (about 230 total) participated in a two-week-long gift-giving assignment based on the theme of The Gift of Nothing. This annual holiday assignment kicked off with each teacher reading the book aloud in class. Then, students received instructions to pick a special person — such as a friend, parent, or coach — and one activity they could do with (or for) the recipient. Per the project guidelines, the chosen activity could not include video games, television, or anything else centered around technology.
Next, each student surprised their recipient with a decorated box filled with “nothing” — along with an explanation of the project. To document the experience, students took photos and shared their reflections in a writing exercise.
“I love this assignment because it makes the kids think about the true meaning of gift-giving,” says Andrew Starowicz, who teaches Science and English Language Arts at the school. “In this current technology era, it makes the kids put down their devices and do something fun with a friend. In my eyes, there is nothing more special. I have been doing this assignment for many years, and I plan to do it for many more.”
Ostego Elementary School in Bowling Green, Ohio
Mollie Layton, who teaches pre-school at Ostego Elementary School, read The Gift of Nothing aloud in her classes. Halfway through the story, she stopped and asked students to make “predictions” about what the gift of nothing could be. “My students are three to five years old, so this was a tricky concept,” she says. “Some students said ‘nothing’ and others said ‘a cat.’ It was fun to do the predictions and then finish the book to see how their understanding of the concept of ‘nothing’ changed.”
After reading the book, the kids cut out and decorated paper hearts — which represented kindness and friendship — and gave them to their friends in class. Finally, they hung up their paper hearts in the classroom to create their very own “giving tree.”
“To extend this activity,” says Mollie, “I bought four empty gift boxes. I filled one with craft feathers, one with nothing, one with pennies, and one with jingle bells. I had the students sit in a circle and pass around the boxes and guess which box contained nothing. It was fun to continue the lesson of understanding the concept of ‘nothing’ in a more scientific sense. The kids loved finding out feathers made no sound!”
Benton Elementary in Wichita, Kansas
In three separate fourth-grade classes at Benton Elementary, a teacher read The Gift of Nothing aloud and hosted a discussion about the holidays. The groups talked about the material possessions on their holiday wish lists, and also discussed other meanings of the holiday season — such as spending time with family and friends. Then, to demonstrate that friendship can be a gift, each student wrote a note of appreciation to someone important to them. They folded and glued their own boxes of “nothing” and put their notes inside as gifts.
“I feel like this is a story which is inclusive to all,” says Erin Cox, a teacher-librarian at Benton Elementary. “Students instantly connect to the theme and enjoy discussing gifts that are non-material. The notes they wrote were heartfelt and meaningful, and many told me they were putting their little paper box under their tree. How sweet!”
Constable Elementary School in South Brunswick, New Jersey
Each December, Constable Elementary School invites members of their community to visit students in class, read a story aloud, and host a conversation about the meaning behind the story. This year, the classes read and discussed The Gift of Nothing. Then, each student wrote about a personal talent or characteristic they could share with others at no cost.
Some of the examples students came up with were: “giving a hug,” “teaching someone how to play piano,” and “playing or sitting with someone at lunch.”
“Students and teachers enjoyed the book,” says Kristin Ippoliti, who teaches first grade at Constable. “It helped students to realize that the best gifts aren’t the ones that cost the most, and that being kind, caring, thoughtful, and creative are priceless.”
You can share your our own Gift of Nothing stories by visiting The Gift of Nothing Day on Facebook or by posting an image on Instagram using the hashtag #TheGiftOfNothingDay. We also invite you to send stories and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for helping to make the second annual Gift of Nothing Day a special and memorable occasion! It means everything to us.