This time of year we begin thinking about how we can serve those around us. 2011 has been especially difficult for many families, and food drives are a great way to teach your students social skills, job skills, and math skills. In the fall of 2008, the special ed classes at Maple Elementary (grades 3-5) held a week long food drive to support the Oak Grove Community Service League. The teachers used this project to teach important life lessons to those who participated.
The entire school participated in the food drive, but the students in the special education department collected the food from the classrooms and kept track of how much food each class had donated. To get the school excited about donating food, the teachers offered an extra recess to the top class in each grade. By the end of the week, the classroom used to collect the food had boxes of food lined around the edge to the point where getting to the chalkboard became impossible and the teachers had to come up with alternative ways to share instruction with the entire class. It was a good problem to have! When delivering the food to the community service league, the coordinators were very excited. They had never received so much food at one time.
How does this project translate into math, social, and life skills?
Math Skills: The students make tables or graphs to chart each classes donated items. They have to make sure that all items are sorted according to class and then count the items brought in each day. Then they need to add together each days’ totals to see which class is in the lead at the end of the day.
Social Skills: Students learn social skills when collecting the food from each classroom. It is important to teach the students how to “interrupt” a teacher to collect the food. (The teacher sponsoring the drive should let teachers know ahead of time approximately when the students will be coming to their class to pick up the food. That way the interruption is not unexpected.) Teaching the students to knock and wait for either someone to open the door, or (if the door is open) wait for the teacher to acknowledge their presence before entering the room. Be clear that the student/s should knock whether the door is open or closed. Also, teach the importance of being a quiet as possible in the class and not talking to the students so that they can continue working or listening to their teacher. (This is especially hard for all kids. They always want to say hi to their friends or siblings in the different rooms.) Also the lesson of being quiet in the hallways and not running. ( At Maple a teacher went along to collect the food, but the students practiced the skills they were learning. The teacher was just an observer.)
Life Skills: Students learn how to collect food carefully without denting cans or breaking boxes. They learn how to stack food into boxes and what tools to use to carry food from one class to another and eventually back to the collection area. They also learn the importance of teamwork and doing something for someone else.
This project really teaches so many important skills and does it in a hands-on way, which most kids really enjoy!
Would you like to share about a school that is doing a community service project? Leave a comment and that school may be mentioned in a future article.