By Teachers, For Teachers
It’s a good time of year to give back. But service learning projects can be dauntingly long, and at this point in the school year, you have less class time, not more. Try this plan for a shorter service project that mixes a dash of giving back with a taste of skill development for an educational holiday treat!
As you complete these steps, there are several good opportunities to integrate curricular content and academic skills.
Step 1: Choose your cause.
Could you find a way to connect the cause to something your students are learning about? For example, a beach clean-up day if they’re studying ecology or helping a local animal shelter if they’ve been studying animals? Here’s a brief list of common causes/places that can benefit from your help.
See if you can make any connections to your curriculum:
These are local options, but remember that there are national and international charities that can also use help. Choose what is best for your class.
For older students, choosing the cause could be an assignment in itself. Provide them with some parameters (distance from school, time required, etc.) and have them research potential causes and make a proposal to the rest of the class. Let students vote on which cause they will support this time.
Step 2: Choose your project.
What are you going to do for the retirement home residents, for veterans, or for the local children’s hospital? Here are some possible ideas:
Next, consider how to incorporate academic skills into the project:
We have no money for field trips. How do we do service projects?
No money, no problem! There are still things your students can do without leaving the classroom. Collecting goods or raising money can be done on campus, with a few volunteers (or even just you, the teacher) arranging to get the goods or money to the people who need it. If you want to spread holiday cheer, consider making a holiday video that could be shown at a retirement home or in a hospital. Here are some other projects that don’t require buses or permission slips:
Step 3: Prepare.
Determine what steps need to be taken in class and what steps will be taken out of class. Depending on the age of your students, this is an excellent time to model project-planning skills that they can benefit from. Don’t present them with the dates, times, and deadlines all planned out – work through it with them so they start to understand the process involved in arranging something like this.
Step 4: Provide the service.
To the students, this might be the “fun part,” especially if you’re going somewhere or taking class time to do something different. That’s okay – if you built in academic activities before and after this, they’re still getting plenty of intellectual benefits from the project and also building character.
Step 5: Report back.
This is the final chance to incorporate academic skills into the project. After performing the service, students can write about their experience and what they learned. This could be anything from a personal reflection to a newspaper-style report on what occurred, depending on your preference and what writing skills you want to encourage.
If you were able to connect the service to some other part of your curriculum, your post-service writing options are even wider. It’s one thing to read about people with disabilities or children with cancer; it’s quite another to interact with those people. Did the service experience change their view of the story or content they were studying? Why or why not?
By combining skills and curriculum with service, you can create a new academic way to celebrate the holidays and broaden your students’ understanding of the world while helping others – so everyone wins!