Back in the fall, as we were studying about citizenship and the importance of getting involved in our community, my students asked if we could do a community service project. Yes, we certainly can! We decided on a few types of organizations that they wanted to support and formed groups but didn’t get much farther. As we paused to get permission from our school administration, other things got in the way, the holidays were upon us and we had to put the project on hold. They kept at me about it for months but we really just didn’t have time to devote to it until after our end of grade (EOG) testing was over. The last week and a half of school is not exactly the best time to try and squeeze in a project but this was one time I just really couldn’t say no. When your third graders are fired up about doing some good for the community, you find a way to make it happen.
We had originally planned to research different organizations that supported the causes they chose ~ homeless animals, veterans and children with medical issues that require long hospital stays. We wanted to look be sure that we were promoting organizations that were trustworthy. With our short time frame, we relied instead on parents and local news outlets for recommendations. We settled on one organization per group with the exception of the group focused on recycling, who decided just to encourage recycling in general.
Another change we had to make was in how we would advertise to our school community. We were planning to share our work and encourage their participation on the school’s morning news program, during classroom visits and by hanging posters in the hallways. Ultimately, we did make posters and also decided to create a website that provided information about the causes we had chosen.
Students spent time getting familiar with each organization and wrote a summary statement about their mission. They then worked together to create a list of ways people could provide support. iPads were used to type up the text and students emailed them to me for inclusion in our website. We used Weebly.com because I wanted to introduce a website builder that the kids could navigate on their own with little instruction. Each group made decisions about how their individual page would look and selected images that would help to promote their cause in an emotional way. We had some great discussion about how photos could be a powerful way to get people interested in helping but that they shouldn’t be too shocking or turn them away.
Once the website was up, it was time to advertise! We talked about what a great time the summer was for kids to help out in the community. That’s where the “Don’t just sit around all summer, get out and DO SOMETHING!” slogan came from. They had fun coming up with variations of that theme and our project came to be known as Do Something. Each group created a poster using materials we purchased via a grant from Donors Choose. We wanted to be sure that people would visit our website so we added strips of paper with the web address on them to each poster. The kids made frequent visits to their posters and excitedly reported how many strips had been taken. That kind of enthusiasm is really the heart of why PBL is so wonderful for students!
I’m so proud of the work they did, especially given that this was the last week of school – a time when it’s pretty tough to keep the kids focused on anything!
Check out our website here: http://dosomethinghilburn.weebly.com/
How do you get your students involved in the community? What are some local organizations that they might like to support?