Combining Community Service Projects and Classroom Learning

As a grand finale to our 80th anniversary celebration, our Continental team proudly took part in a community service project to help a local charity. We partnered with Power Packs Project, a nonprofit organization in our home state of PA that offers food, recipes, and nutrition tips for students and families in need. We donated nearly 2,000 food items and $1,600 in cash and gift cards through our food drive!

Over the years, we’ve seen community service take on a much bigger role in education. Many states and individual school districts have included service learning or community service projects as part of their high school graduation requirements.

  • Maryland and the District of Columbia have statewide high school service requirements.
  • Nearly half of U.S. states allow students to earn credits toward graduation through service.
  • A handful of states allow individual school districts to adopt their own service requirements for graduation.

Getting young students interested in community service projects early on can create a genuine interest in service, making it easy for them to fulfill future community service requirements. We encourage you to find ways to incorporate community service projects into your classroom.

high school and elementary school students doing a community service projects

How Service Projects Can Boost Classroom Learning

Maybe you love the idea of community service but never considered it as part of your teaching. Why not?! When you elevate a community service project by tying it into your curriculum, you’ve created a service learning opportunity. Combined with your classroom teaching, service learning can give your students critical hands-on experiences that create genuine “a-ha!” moments. Here are several curriculum-based ideas:

For your Science Curriculum

When studying the process of pollination and natural pollinators, have your class research plants that entice pollinators like butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. Then get hands-on by planting a school garden with these bushes and plants.

For your Reading/ELA Curriculum

Improve reading skills for students across all grade levels with a Book Buddies program. Match students in upper grades (4th–6th) grade with students in lower grades (1st – 3rd) to do paired readings together. Some schools have even expanded their Book Buddies programs further out into the community by pairing students with shelter animals or therapy/assistance animals for reading practice.

For your Social Studies Curriculum

As your students learn about local government and local landmarks, incorporate an element of community action by touring historical areas of your town and cleaning up important landmarks and surrounding areas.

The National Youth Leadership Council and Youth.gov both offer service learning projects that you can incorporate into your current curriculum.

Take Your Cues from Your Kids

Use your students’ interests as inspiration when brainstorming community service projects your class might respond to. If your kids have a strong connection to the cause and see a direct impact on their lives and their community, they’ll be enthusiastic to participate and you’ll have a better chance of success.

Students who notice litter on the playground, athletic fields, or nearby parks may be eager to take part in a clean-up project. Signs about a missing pet can spark interest in a donation drive for a local animal shelter. Even an American history lesson could inspire students to create care packages for overseas soldiers.

It Takes Less Time Than You Think

There’s a lot that needs to get done in your classroom every day and adding a classroom service learning project to your to-do list may seem impossible. How about starting small?

Take a cue from Service in a Box, a simple community service program started by the PTO Community Service Committee at Sunrise Point Elementary in Overland Park, KS, developed to be completed during classroom parties. The Service in a Box ideas below can be adapted easily for a similar organization in your local community.

Happy Plates

Create laminated placemats that can be delivered along with hot meals through the Meals on Wheels program. All you need is construction paper and markers for your students to create bright, colorful designs based on the holiday you are celebrating (e.g. winter holidays or Valentine’s Day) or other cheerful pictures. Laminate the placemats for durability and reuse once the designs are completed.

Weekend Snack Packs

Many students rely on the breakfasts and lunches they receive in school and may not have access to balanced meals on the weekends or over school holidays. Your students can create Weekend/Holiday Snack Packs for a local organization that is working to end child hunger.

Instead of party snacks or supplies, ask families to donate a 20-count pack of nonperishable foods that include: granola/breakfast bars, fruit cups/applesauce, oatmeal, mac and cheese, juice boxes, peanut butter crackers, popcorn, beef jerky, or tuna pouches. Students can decorate brown paper lunch bags and fill them with these quick meals and snacks.

We want to shine the spotlight on teachers who have created community service projects in the classrooms or throughout their school districts. Share the story of your community project in the comments below!

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