give back in alphabet lettersThe holiday season is upon us. With so much diversity among the student body, it’s a good time of the year to pause and reflect upon how we as teachers can help instill compassion and the importance of service amongst our students.

We recently asked some of our PLS instructors and team members to share ideas of how teachers and schools can promote community as the holidays approach, and year-round. Here are some great ideas that we’d like to share with you. We hope you find these ideas inspiring and that they help you encourage your students to pay it forward. And if you have any ideas to add to our list, please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Feed a Hungry Tummy

At my school, each homeroom has a “turkey basket.” Students are encouraged to add food and other items (napkins, forks, etc.) to the turkey basket and donate money to purchase a turkey. Then, I create my own turkey basket so students see that I am also invested in helping the community. Students recognize the need that exists within their own community to help lift each other up during the holidays.
Shawn Robbins, PLS Instructor

Many families come together and put together food bags that have breakfast, lunches and snacks for the free and reduced families in our district. This helps those families who don’t have money to purchase breakfast and lunch for their kids during the holiday breaks. And it helps support these families who depend on the free breakfast and lunch the school provides them during the school days.
Brooke Thurston, PLS Instructor

My former high school had their annual canned-food drive every year, which resulted in a little friendly competition between the English department and the math department. This good old fashioned fun was done in an effort to bring in as many cans of food as possible for the local food bank. Our school provided daily snack rewards for the highest daily totals, and then after ten days, all of the food was loaded into a truck by volunteer students. It was an all-school affair that gave everyone the feel-goods of giving.
Stephanie Kind, PLS Instructor

Give Gifts Galore

Check behind those couch cushions and glove compartments in your car! Each class in our elementary school participates in a “change challenge” by collecting loose change. The homeroom that collects the most change wins a pizza party or movie day. The students vote on how they’d like to spend the money. Perhaps it can be used to purchase food which can be donated to a local shelter. Or it can be used to purchase school supplies or new books for a school in need.
— Chris Juhaz, PLS Team

Spread Kindness and Cheer

My 5th graders and I walked to a local bank to sign cards for the troops to send overseas for the holidays. This activity was valuable to connect my students to the community while showing appreciation for the sacrifices that the people in the armed services make each day. (You could also have your students create cards or drawings for overseas troops, kids in the hospital, or the elderly at a local nursing home — bonus points if you arrange for your class to deliver the cards in person.)
Elaine Flagg, PLS Instructor

A teacher in my district organizes classes from K-12 to make greeting cards for first responders in the district. This is a great way to say thanks to those who help and actually live in the community. Many students end up knowing someone on our list of recipients.
— Chris Juhaz, PLS Team

At my school we celebrate all month with Random Acts of Kindness and coordinate it with World Kindness Day in November. Here are some examples of what we do:

  • Spread Kindness – Students are given fall colored flowers (or another treat) with kindness cards. They personalize and decorate the cards then go out into their community and give strangers their kindness flower.
  • Positive Post It Notes – Write something positive, inspiring or encouraging on a post it. Place it around your house for your family members or at school for students and teachers. (Parents and teachers are encouraged to do this for the students, too).
  • Download the Random Acts of Kindness Game Board. Try to complete all the tasks on the game board. Students are encouraged to share experiences in small groups or by writing a journal entry or short essay.

Brittany Frey, PLS Instructor

Our school has adopted a toddler who has already been through multiple surgeries and will need more. Rather than students having to come up with money or solicit others, they choose a community service job and the employer, city or entity that receives the service does the monetary donation. I have a student in my sixth-grade class now who was once the toddler in need. She and her family are now able to give back through this new campaign. Also, I love that students are earning the funds rather than asking for them.
Stephanie Kind, PLS Instructor

Provide Warmth

Ask families to purchase or donate gently used warm winter clothes such as hats, gloves and scarves and donate to those in need. Since no child should be cold, this one is easy to support. So many department stores run “buy one/get one” sales — I think of it as “one for my kid, and one for a kid in need”!
— Chris Juhasz, PLS Team

Don’t Forget Our Furry Friends

Our school identifies a charity every year and we support them throughout the year. This year we are doing the Humane Society, so at Christmas we do a drive to collect items for the animals as well as supplies to be used by the staff. It’s nice to have the same charity throughout the year so students can see the many different ways to help. We have a presentation in the fall and another in the spring.
Gloria Herlihy, PLS Instructor


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