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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Thank You For Being So Generous - Introducing Children to the Joy of Helping Others



       "Thank you for being so generous" is something you will frequently hear in my classroom.  I say it every time a child brings in change for our "Coins for a Cause" collection or snacks to be put in our goodie bags for the homeless or a toy to be shared with children who are less fortunate.  I say the same thing every time because I know it makes the child feel good. I say it whether the child brings in a few pennies or a whole collection of books.  I thank them for being generous because I want "being generous" to be part of their vocabulary and one of the ways they think about themselves. We do service projects, or "generous things," in our classroom because I think it is important for children to understand that everyone can do things (both small and big) to help others and that by doing so, both the helpers and those being helped will feel good.
   
Here are a few of the projects I have done in my classroom:
- We made 100 valentines to send to soldiers overseas on the 100th day of school.
- We made cards and a treat for older kids taking standardized tests.
- We made chocolate covered pretzels and cards to distribute to people who help us (lunch ladies, principal, secretaries, security, other teachers, volunteers, etc.)
- We made fancy bubble blowers (with wire and beads) for a homeless shelter that serves children.
-  We collect "Coins for a Cause." Each year we pick a charity and explain how the children's money will help.
putting together
treat bags for a homeless shelter
- Each month, one of our classrooms collects individually wrapped snacks that they then put together in treat bags that are distributed after dinner at a homeless shelter.
- We bring in a toy from home to give to a classroom that doesn't have all the toys that we have.
- We put together craft kits for a class in a low income school district
- We have counted down the days to Christmas with random acts of kindness.
Toys collected for a classroom
     
         The most important factor in choosing a service project for young children is that they understand how they are helping someone else.  My favorite projects are ones that involve something that the kids themselves would want.  We always talk about why we are doing the project and always act out how the people we are helping will feel. For instance, we will talk about how we would feel if we only had a few toys in our classroom and then I ask them to show me what they think the children's faces will look like when they get to play with the toys we are sharing.
        My favorite giving projects also require some time and effort on the part of the children. Although we do collect change and toys, I especially like projects that are more than just bringing in something that the child's parents have given them. (Actually, I know that giving away a toy can require a lot of effort from the child:).   Therefore, making special treats, or a bubble wand  or putting together treat bags for the homeless are even more meaningful to the kids.  The kids certainly understand the appeal of the treats but are always wonderful about understanding that they are not for them and are excited to be making other people happy.
       The first 4 projects were originally done when I taught kindergarten in a very low income school district where I couldn't ask for donations from parents.  I think that it is perhaps even more important for children who don't have as much (and whose families are frequently relying on the government or others for support) to understand that they can help others and to know the good feeling that comes from helping others. I wish I had thought of Counting Down to Christmas With Random Acts of Kindness when I taught in Chester because many of the things we do don't require any money and I think the act of doing something every day is really meaningful to the kids. Unfortunately,  Pinterest wasn't around then. :)
       Finally, I  think that it is important that service is not seen as something we only do at Christmas or for Dr. King's birthday.  Our goodie bags for the homeless are nice because we do them every month.  We also always have our coin collection sitting next to our calendar and, because my kids like to hear "Thank you for being so generous," I don't have to remind parents about it after we first explain the charity we have chosen to collect for at the beginning of the year.
           I would love to hear what service projects you do with your classes.
A very happy member of our meeting with a card and letter we sent to her.

8 comments:

  1. Oh, you KNOW I love this post ... and I'm glad that kids want to help because it's 'generous' and not because they're getting something! Our biggest service project is our annual SOS (Supplies for the Soldiers) drive. We collect basic-need supplies (and often throw in a few pamper-me things before Thanksgiving, then write letters of thanks to top off the care packages. We send them right around the 1st of December so that they'll arrive in time for the holidays. The BEST part is when we have a soldier who is willing to skype with us so that we can see him/her open our box right in front of us on the big screen during lunch in the cafeteria. So rewarding!! Awesome post ... keep up the HEART work!

    Barbara

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    1. Thanks for your comment Barbara. I like the idea that "being generous" is part of my little ones' vocabulary. What a wonderful idea to skype with a soldier. I'm sure it means a lot to the kids (and the soldier).
      Lyn

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  2. This is a heart warming post. :)

    Please visit my blog for details about the PA Blogger Meet Up. We would love for you to join in the fun!

    Wendy
    Read With Me ABC

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    1. Thanks Wendy, I'm going to be out of town dun=ring the Blogger Meer Up :(
      Lyn

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  3. I agree with you; I also think that it is really important for kids to learn about being generous without expecting anything in return. At least, anything material in return. I also agree with the kids giving of themselves rather than bringing in money or school supplies or ?? that their parents have given them. We raise money (by making and selling rice crispie squares) to put together Operation Christmas Child boxes. I would like to do more projects during the year - I will be borrowing some of your ideas.

    sandi
    rubberboots and elf shoes

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    1. Sandi, I love the idea of having the kids make something to sell to raise money. I think I am going to try and set up a book giveaway this year. The idea was inspired by your post about letting kids pick books to avoid the summer slide. I love the idea of having my kiddos bake something to sell so I can buy new books (I'm also going to just ask parents to buy scholastic books for me). Thanks for all of your great ideas.
      Lyn

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  4. We do Random Acts of Kindness at Christmas time, and I love the way the kids respond to those acts. I'd love to do more though. Thank you for sharing your ideas.
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

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