Community Service in the Classroom: Start with Charity

Teenagers often get a bad rap. Portrayed in the media as selfish, egotistical and uncaring, many people assume that today’s teens can’t see beyond their smart phone screen. My 21 years’ experience as a middle school teacher has taught me that teens aren’t necessarily as they appear, and if given support and confidence they can make a real service impact in our country.

Finding and preparing for the right community service opportunity is crucial to a successful experience. For first timers, I suggest starting with something that allows teens to experience charity. By providing opportunities for teens to donate, create, or contribute to a group or organization they can both experience the thrill of helping others and the safety of their comfort zone. Pushing kids into direct contact service can be intimidating-taking the slow and steady approach has been a great segue into further service projects. Charity projects are easy to organize and complete, leaving teens with a sense of satisfaction and the confidence to do more.

A few first time charity projects to complete in the classroom could include:

· Collecting food donations for a food bank. Canned and boxed food items, staples, and other non-perishables are easy to gather and store in a classroom. Try writing one needed item on an index card and divide them evenly among the class. As students bring in items, collect cards and check off collection sheet.

· Support the local animal shelter. A quick phone call to the shelter will reward you with a list of items needed to care for their animals. Brushes, old rags and blankets, dog and cat treats, and leashes and collars are usually highly desirable for shelters.

· Plan an afternoon school clean up. Most districts today have severely cut back grounds keeping, and with a bunch of teens and a few hours, you can make a real difference in the beauty of your school. Send requests to borrow rakes, shovels, trowels, baskets, wheelbarrows and weeding tools and spend a few hours cleaning up your campus.

· Collect spare change for a charity. Ask kids to each bring in a coffee can or clean jar with a lid, and have them decorate it to represent a local community or national cause. Distribute cans and jars to each classroom in your school, and do a daily check in for spare change for one week.

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