For those who are happy and healthy, the holiday season is certainly the most wonderful time of the year. Full of vacation time, family gatherings, food, and presents, the holidays seem to pack everything we enjoy the most about life into the span of a couple months. And the magic and happiness we experience as adults is only magnified for kids.
Unfortunately, not everyone in our communities is blessed with full tables and warm homes. For people and children in need, the holiday season seems to amplify all of the things that are out of their reach. For that reason, the end of the year is not just the perfect time for receiving presents but also for doing something to help those less fortunate than us.
Taking action to help those in need isn’t just an adult activity. Indeed, many families have incorporated giving back into their annual holiday traditions. But educators shouldn’t shy away from also harnessing the spirit of giving, and bringing it into their schools and classroom. It’s a great way to teach students about gratitude and selflessness, while also working together to contribute positively to the community.
There are countless ways for teachers and schools to organize give-back campaigns at all levels of involvement. If you’re looking for a starting point, we have listed a couple easy suggestions.
1. Coordinate a food drive or fundraiser for Feeding America. The impact of going hungry or malnourished on a child is devastating, which is why food drives or donating to organizations like Feeding America can make such a positive difference. If you or your students are interested in this cause, Feeding America has a plethora of resources to help you get started, whether it’s information on how to connect to your local food bank, how to plan a Set the Table fundraiser, or simply how to talk to your students about hunger.
2. Write holiday cards to active military members. It won’t cost your students anything to pick up a colorful marker and write a cheery message in a holiday card, but the impact of receiving one of these cards can go quite a long way. Every year the American Red Cross hosts the Holidays for Heroes campaign, where they collect holiday cards to send to members of the military. This is an easy way for students to make a difference this holiday season while also learning about why servicemen and women deserve our support and respect.
3. Paint and send messages of hope to disaster victims. Our country has faced what feels like a record amount of tragedies this year, from shootings to natural disasters. Students are not immune or ignorant to these news headlines, which is why so much discussion has taken place about how educators can and should handle these events in the classroom. Stars of Hope is an art program that can give your student a chance to take positive action in helping disaster victims start or continue their healing process. Students design their own messages of hope onto wooden stars, and they can then choose to send their stars to a community that needs this extra encouragement and love.
4. Make pet toys for a local animal shelter. Many of your students likely have pets that are loved just as fiercely as any other member of their family (or maybe loved more, if they have siblings). Unfortunately, not all animals are as lucky as their pets and are still looking for their forever families. Rally your students to bring some brightness to these animals’ lives by hosting a crafting session where they can make pet toys that will then be donated to a local animal shelter. The Anti-Cruelty Society has a list of easy DIY toys that require just a few simple materials.
5. Play educational games online to donate food. Started in 2007, Free Rice is a simple website trivia game run by the United Nations World Food Programme that donates 10 grains of rice for every correct answer. While the game garnered a lot of attention when it first launched, the hubbub around it has since died down. Giving your students time to play this game donates rice to those who need it while simultaneously quizzing them on topics ranging from vocabulary to chemistry. There’s even an SAT prep category!
6. Encourage your students to research and choose an organization to support. Just like every student has a different learning style, every student also has different values and opinions which will in turn affect what they hold dear to their hearts. It’s valuable to give them the time to decide for themselves what causes they feel are important and are passionate about. Once your students have decided the organizations they want to support, you can decide as a class which ones to contribute to or you can use a little holiday gift to place that power into their own individual hands. TisBest is an organization that provides gift cards where the money is used only to support charities. Giving a student a $5 TisBest gift card means he or she has the power to personally support a cause that the student finds meaningful.
7. Express gratitude for your own school community. There are tons of ways your students can make a positive difference outside of school in ways that help those across the country or even the world. And while this should be encouraged, we can sometimes forget that our community close to home also deserves some love and attention. So if your classroom or school doesn’t have the resources to take a big action, focus on doable little actions that together can make a big impact. Something as simple as penning notes of appreciation for the school principal or writing positive chalk messages on common school spaces can uplift someone’s day and bring good vibes to your school.