Today I toured a university campus with my college-bound son. When the student tour guide was talking about the university’s science program, her eyes lit up when she told us how she was taking biology 101, and even though the experiments the students were doing in their labs were very basic, the results were being used as part of a research project that she professor was doing. She loved being part of something that mattered – beyond her own education. That got me thinking…how can teachers get students involved in projects that matter beyond themselves, beyond the classroom? Here is a list of ideas:
Write for Real Readers
Often, the only person that reads a student’s work is the teacher, and maybe a parent. What if…
- Students wrote letters to real people instead of practice letters that never get mailed – to authors, politicians, city officials, companies, newspapers and magazines, friends, relatives, pen pals, soldiers, guest speakers etc.
- Stories and/or poems were gathered into an anthology that was bound into a real book. My son’s fifth grade teacher does this every year. They produce multiple copies and have a book signing at the local Barnes and Nobel. Enough parents, relatives, and friends buy the book to pay for the printing and to supply each of the authors with a copy of the book for free. Extra proceeds get used for books for the class library.
- Children got to read their original poems at a school poetry slam, held once a month.
- A student written haiku was broadcast each morning over the PA system along with the pledge and the day’s announcements.
- The fifth or sixth grade class produced a school newspaper that was distributed to every student.
- Students published blogs or contributed to a class blog.
Mentor Younger Students
For a variety of reasons, the year my daughter was in sixth grade, the sixth grade classes were a challenging group of kids. The principal was always telling them that they should behave well because they were an example for the younger students, but she never gave them real opportunities to lead. What if…
- Older students were paired with younger students in a kindergarten buddies program
- Older students got to participate in meetings about school rules, especially in regards to recess and lunch, and their ideas were considered before decisions were made.
- Older students were trained as mediators to help with playground disputes between younger students.
- Older students were trained as homework helpers for an after school program for struggling students.
Often schools collect food and clothing for the homeless during the holidays. What else can they do?
- There are many ways that helping the planet can be worked into your curriculum. Plant some trees, clear away nonnative plants, raise salmon to be released (some schools do this in Washington State).
- There are many nonprofits that have ways for kids to get involved – some such as Free the Children were even started by kids.
- Start a Random Acts of Kindness or Pay it Forward program in your school or class.
Just a few ideas…maybe you have more!