How you can get students involved in improving their community and environment

Now more than ever it is important that we encourage our kids to be the change in their community and help improve the lives of people who live there.

However, spending time helping the community is not always the main priority for a child growing up when there are more ‘fun’ options available.  Kids don’t always realize how much of a difference their contributions can make in the world but in fact they do.  So how do we go about getting kids excited about volunteering? Here’s how:

Explore Interests: You can start this with a discussion with your students about things they think need to be improved in their community. This is better than just telling kids what things need to be cared about. Once you know what they’re passionate about, you can start project planning from there.

Discussions: Once you find projects that the kids care about its time to start having a discussion!  What’s causing these problems in the community? What can adults do to help?  What can children do to help?  It is important to talk about not only short-term solutions, but also long term solutions.  Have your kids do the thinking!

Visual: Make a visual representation of your class project that they can use to remind them every time they walk into the classroom of this project. If they are seeing it every day it will make a bigger impact in their mind and in their hearts. Visual anchors also help them stay invested and on track throughout sometimes long projects.

Group Affair: Don’t just make these projects independent work for the kids to do in their free time.  You can make it a group project, or even a whole-class project if you have that flexibility. It’s important to encourage groups of kids work together. This will make them want to participate more and make them feel more comfortable when they are helping out.

Accountability: Make sure you have an accountability system in place so that students are responsible for actually doing the service work. Slacking won’t be tolerated, and dishonesty of service work accomplishments won’t be either. You can apply these schoolwork accountability methods to community service efforts.

Big Picture: In order for kids to see how important their actions are to this cause, you must make them aware of the bigger picture that they are serving.  Make sure that they see that their actions can make a difference in the world around them.

Make it fun: Try your best to make whatever volunteer or service project they are helping with as fun as possible.  It can be as simple as playing music in the background during volunteering time.  You could also rotate volunteer responsibilities so there is more variety in what they are doing. If you’re having fun, they’ll have fun.

By following these steps your small classroom can make a big impact on your community. Teaching your students at a young age that their hands can make big changes is incredibly valuable and is a lesson that will stay with them the rest of their lives.

Let us know in the comments section if you have any other suggestions!

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Ashley Moffitt

Marketing Intern at KIPP New Jersey
Ashley is a contributor to the KIPP New Jersey Blog.