As all teachers know, some of the best teachable moments happen outside of textbooks. Authentic, experiential learning is powerful and usually has a longer lasting effect than most other types of instruction. One great way to involve students in hands-on projects that not only teach them valuable lessons, but also raises their awareness of the needs of others is to adopt a class community service project.
Whether the class adopts a project for the entire school year or for the last month of school, the opportunity is priceless. Not only do students get to become invested in a project that directly benefits others, they learn about working cooperatively and toward a common goal. The shared sense of accomplishment and excitement that can be generated from helping others is a lesson worth teaching.
Many non-profit organizations encourage educators to get their students involved. With the vast number of organizations out there, it can be difficult to narrow down the choices. The groups below are just a few of the many, but they directly impact the lives of children across the country and around the world.
Teaching Compassion with Community Service Projects
This organization’s goal is to provide pediatric cancer patients with colorful pillowcases. Classes are encouraged to sew pillowcases to donate. Although the thought of needles and thread in your third graders hands may truly be terrifying, they can collect fabric and measure and cut it to size. Recruit a parent volunteer (or two!) who is handy with a sewing machine to sew the pillow cases together.
Dedicating to providing educational opportunities to children in developing countries, Room to Read focuses on building schools, providing books and changing the life of one child at a time. They have established a Students Helping Students program that encourages teachers and students to get involved. There are two complete, downloadable kits available on their site that contain tips and tricks for holding Book Drives and Read-a-Thons. It is a great way to motivate kids to read and help others at the same time!
Providing shoes for children and adults is just what Soles4Souls does. This non-profit encourages schools to host fund raisers or shoe drives to donate shoes to those in need. Walk-a-thons around the gymnasium, a year-long shoe drive or a Kick Off Your Shoes Dance-a-thon, are all possible ways to get your students, and the entire school, excited about this great community service project.
Think your students, especially the boys, would not be interested in knitting or crocheting? Think again! Kids of all ages love to learn these skills. When the finished project is for a special purpose, kids are even more interested. If you do not know how to knit or crochet, look to parents or grandparents of students, fellow teachers, and community members who would be willing to volunteer their time. Don’t let the thought of buying dozens of pairs of knitting needles put you off either; knitting can easily be done with two sharpened pencils.
Have you ever done a community service project with your class that was a huge success? Share with us what you worked on and why your students liked participating.