How to Get Students Excited About Service

Volunteering and Health 

This month we’re focusing on the importance of giving and service. While we often implement required or recommended service opportunities in schools in an attempt to help students build empathy and give back to their communities, we don’t often talk about the physical and mental health benefits of this activity. Did you know that participating in regular volunteering opportunities is correlated with living a longer life and higher life satisfaction? A few studies have also found a strong correlation between acts of giving and lower levels of depression and depressive symptoms. However, further research has found that these mental and physical benefits are only reported in those people whose intentions were truly altruistic, meaning that they made the conscious decision to help others, they weren’t forced into it.

How to Get Students Excited About Service

With this knowledge, it’s clear that we should be encouraging our students to choose and actively participate in different volunteering opportunities. Service opportunities can come in all shapes and sizes, whether it’s helping a neighbor clean out their garage or serving food at a local soup kitchen, there are many ways that students can easily give back. Below you’ll find a few different service ideas broken down by grade level. But don’t stop here- you know your students, their interests, and their communities, so use this information to come up with other fun ideas!

Elementary School Service

  1. Make holiday cards for a local senior center

  2. Collect old games and toys to be donated to a local homeless shelter

  3. Host  a hot chocolate or lemonade stand to raise money for a cause you care about

  4. Plant flowers in a local park

  5. Help your parents with chores around the house

Middle School Service

  1. Organize a food drive in your neighborhood, church, or school

  2. Collect a backpack of extra school supplies to be donated to a student in need

  3. Clean up trash at a local park

  4. Do research on a cause you care about and have a garage sale to raise money for this cause

  5. Make a “New Student” guide to your town that includes your favorite parks, a map of the neighborhood, and fun things to do

High School Service

  1. Volunteer at a Special Olympics event

  2. Tutor younger students after school

  3. Read to senior citizens at a nursing home

  4. Organize a winter clothes drive to collect coats, hats, scarves, and gloves to be donated

  5. Research a cause you care about and for your next birthday or holiday, ask family and friends to donate rather than giving you gifts

The important thing to remember is that students shouldn’t feel like they are being assigned a certain task or activity; let them choose, have them do research, and see what kinds of ideas they come up with. By giving students freedom of choice, you allow them to get involved with something they are truly passionate about, which will make them more engaged and make their service experience more fulfilling. Any type of service is going to have an impact, you might just have to expand their “idea” of what service means! Check out this article with some more tips for introducing concepts of giving back and how you can make it something that sticks in your classroom and school community.

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