Regardless of age or grade, nearly every students always looks forward to summer vacation. The warm summer months are often filled with exciting family trips, sports, and relaxation. However, although school may be out for several months, we can still encourage our children to keep their minds active outside the classroom. Service learning is the perfect way to engage our children's minds and show them the importance of community involvement and good citizenship. Although service learning opportunities are available year-round, great summer weather and flexible schedules make summer vacation the perfect time for students to learn how to reach out to others.
Hosting a Community Fundraiser Fair
Turn your child's favorite crafts or baking projects into a valuable fundraising opportunity for local charity. Talk with your child and help them pick a worthwhile community need such as awareness for a serious illness, a local food pantry, an animal shelter, or local child foster services. Encourage your child's friends and fellow classmates to take part in creating crafts or baked goods. Ask around for possible locations to host your fair. Many nonprofit organizations such as libraries and smaller local businesses are happy to donate space or even additional supplies for your fundraising event. Help your child spread awareness before the event by passing out fliers and inviting as many people as they can. If possible, try to partner with your child's school officials or the organization itself for an added boost of awareness.
Being able to personally raise funds for an important cause is a huge boost for your child's self-esteem and community responsibility. Nothing feels better than knowing they were personally able to help a needy cause.
Starting a Mentoring or Tutoring Club
Every child has important people in their lives that they look up to as examples and personal "heroes." Use the power of positive peer-pressure to help younger children find healthy friendships and encouragement this summer. Within your child's friend group or classmates, gather older children willing to donate time and energy for helping younger children in the community. Check with your child's school and see whether any younger students are in need of tutors or "mentors" during the summer months. After going through the necessary channels and double-checking with each child's parents, pair an older student with a younger one in need of a helping hand.
Younger students that receive extra help with challenging subjects such as math and reading return the next school year with much more skill and motivation. Spending time with a responsible older child also keeps them from falling into a wrong crowd or succumbing to other dangerous summertime temptations. Older students that learn to mentor and help those under them also gain responsibility and learn the importance of setting a good example.
Building Care Packages for First Responders
Although firefighters, police, and EMT's are extremely valuable members of our community, they rarely receive personal thanks and tokens of gratitude. Help your child value these brave public heroes as well as learn more about the impact each one makes. Check in with your local fire station, ambulance company or police department for field trip opportunities. Encourage your child's friends to tag along for the tour. Meeting first responders in person is an extremely valuable experience for every child; seeing them face-to-face outside of an emergency helps them see that these are real people with unique lives and personalities.
Follow-up on your field trip by helping your child and their friends create thank-you cards or homemade treat baggies. If possible, create each thank-you baggie with specific first responders in mind; be sure to include names on each bag. Drop off these meaningful gifts and cards for a heartwarming surprise.
Adopt a Local Landmark or Memorial
Unfortunately, many amazing local landmarks and historic memorials often go forgotten in our community. Apart from occasional field trips or routine city maintenance, many important destinations often go without personal love and care. This summer, take your child on a tour throughout your city, specifically looking for "abandoned" monuments or commemorations. Historic neighborhoods, veteran cemeteries, and memorial parks are great examples of locations in need of some extra attention. After picking a specific place, find out how you and your child can volunteer and help. Something as simple as picking up trash on a regular basis is a great service learning habit. Setting out fresh flowers or wreaths is also an amazing way to show love to lost veterans and their families. Regardless of what location they choose or how they volunteer, simple acts of caring are powerful ways to grow empathy within your child.
Volunteer in the Community
Every community is filled with many amazing nonprofits and volunteering organizations. Service learning is rich with opportunities; all we have to do is look. Children that grow up regularly donating time and energy for needy causes gain valuable experience and empathy. Volunteers of any age lead very enrich lives as they work for the needs of others. Although there are many opportunities available, helping your child find just the right niche can be a challenge. If you're unsure of where to start your child's volunteering career, consider these popular child-friendly choices:
- Caring for un-adopted pets at an animal shelter
- Spending time with a senior citizen at a nursing home or senior center
- Reading to younger children at their library
- Serving at a food bank or pantry
- Sending cards and encouragement notes to deployed servicemen and women
- Donating toys and gift baggies to local foster care group homes
- Learning to crochet or knit hats or head scarves for local cancer patients
Service learning gives children an education that goes far beyond usual classroom subjects. With most schools out for summer break, take this free time to help your child grow a valuable education aimed at meeting the needs of others.
Students at Method spend time weekly thinking of anyone but themselves! Students learn valuable skills of citizenship through philanthropy, along with 21st Century skills of collaboration through global thinking and problem solving. Those that participate in The Colony seek problems and areas of need in the local and global communtities and through collaobration and critical thinking, discover ways to help.