With a week and a half left of school before the holiday break many educators take this opportunity to break from traditional curriculum and design alternate activities for students. I, too, enjoyed providing experiences for my students that focused on community and giving back. And even though academic achievement measures weigh heavily on the minds of us all, it is through experiences in which the whole-child is developed, and empathy is understood that we find great joy and remind us that we not only want our students to be lifelong learners but also caring citizens.
4 Holiday Activities that Have Your Students Giving Back to the Community:
- Santa Letters – Each year my AP Literature students “played” Santa as they wrote letters to elementary students. During the Community Holiday Celebration, local businesses had parents stop in and fill out forms for their children describing accomplishments throughout the year, holiday traditions, and gifts their children had asked Santa to bring them. And each year my students would craft letters to each child highlighting the information in the forms. Children shook with glee when a letter arrived from the North Pole and my students beamed with pride knowing they made the holidays a bit brighter. This same strategy could be done by pairing with an elementary classroom and would not have to be a community organized event.
- 12 Acts of Kindness – Another activity my students enjoyed was based off the concept of “Paying it Forward”. I challenged students to do good deeds for 12 consecutive days for peers, teachers, family members, people in the community, and strangers. The catch was the deed was to be anonymous and they had to keep a log to share with the class of the things they did and their thoughts and feelings on giving back while receiving nothing in return, and at times, not even recognition that it was them that performed the act. From shoveling a neighbor’s sidewalk, leaving a gift card for a family’s meal, to a positive note left on a car window; students reveled in the experience, were creative in their good deeds, and felt satisfied sharing their good work with the class.
- Volunteer – Not every student has extra money to spend on others during the holiday season but mostly all students do have time to give back to the community. As educators, bringing awareness to our students about the different ways one can give back to others through time and sweat equity allows them to make a positive impact as a young person. From bell ringing for the Salvation Army to preparing hot meals at the local shelter, students are eager to make their world better through action. Don’t forget our Furry Friends as well, kids love animals and the Humane Society and local animal shelters are often seeking volunteers to walk and play with the animals.
- Adopt-a-Senior – In many communities the nursing home is in close proximity to the school which makes this activity possible. Adopting a Family during the holiday season is a common occurrence, in fact, my National Honor Society kids adopted a family each year and pooled their own resources to help a family in need, but it is also possible to adopt a senior. Many nursing homes have residents who need to be “adopted” during the holiday season for many different reasons. When students form relationships with the elderly much is gained through the interactions. Rich history is passed down, an understanding of the fragility of human life, and a bond and friendship develops. While some residents have specific needs students can purchase and provide for them during the holiday seasons just like they would through Adopt-a-Family, I have found small acts of caroling,Christmasout christmas cards, or simply sharing some cookies and cider makes the largest impact on both the senior and student!
Thank You for making an impact on children and I wish you and your family a Happy Holiday Season!