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60 Free or Low Cost Service Projects


Most of these service learning projects can be adjusted to accommodate different age groups (K-12) and require a minimum amount of supplies, like construction paper and markers, or vegetable and flower seeds.

Younger students should be able to make cards, perform songs, plant gardens, clean up small areas, visit the elderly, collect items and even participate in awareness campaigns.
Some of the projects require specific skills, such as computer skills or playing instruments. However, most of the projects do not require any previous skills, like collecting particular items.

Remember to let the students have a voice in choosing the service project that best fits their interests and don’t forget to help students reflect on what they are learning during and after the project. And most importantly, HAVE FUN.

1. Community resource/Job Fair – Students will invite community
organizations to set up displays in the gym, library or cafeteria and give
out information about their organizations
2. Technology Training for senior citizens – Students will partner with a
senior citizen group to assist them with computer skills and internet
3. Homework assistance or Tutoring at After School Programs – Students will partner with an after school program and assist younger children with their homework.
4. Book Drive – Students will collect and donate children’s books to promote literacy.
5. Create alphabet books – Students will make alphabet books for younger children by drawing pictures or cutting out pictures from magazines.
6. Reading to younger children – Students will pick a picture book and read to younger children. Students could also design an art project related to the story for the children to complete.
7. Gift Bags for Teachers – Students will collect small items like candy, pens, lotion, tissue, etc for teachers and make thank you cards for them.

8. Drug education – Research the effects of illegal drug usage
9. Sports camps – Host sports activities for a youth program
10. Field days at local schools – Design different games and activities stations for children to play
11. Volunteer for local youth sports leagues (referee, coach, fund raise, develop, etc.)
12. Community vegetable garden – Plant a vegetable garden for poor or homeless.
13. Host an exercise class – Demonstrate easy ways to get active.
14. Healthy Nutrition demonstration – Demonstrate how to make healthy snacks.
15. Clothes closet – Students will have a clothes donation drive at one
school and set up a clothes closet at another school (to prevent children
from being embarrassed about wearing clothes of their classmates)
16. Grocery shopping for the elderly – Students will partner with a senior
citizen community to do the grocery shopping for the elderly.

17. Organize a Glee Club – Students will teach children songs or how to play an instrument.
18. Provide entertainment – Students will volunteer in nursing homes, providing music entertainment
19. Support arts education – Students will help younger children with an art project.
20. Make holiday cards (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Mother/Father’s Day, Veterans Day, Valentine’s Day) for Meals on Wheels recipients
21. Talent Show – Students will organize a music event to raise funds for a charity of their choice.


22. Landscaping for school, community organization or the elderly. Borrow equipment and cut grass, pull weeds, and or rake leaves.

23. Disaster preparation – Students will collect information about tornado and hurricane preparation and make information packs for the community. Older students could also make presentations for younger

24. Adopt a Park – Students will clean up a park and plant flowers.

25. Collect blankets for low-income and homeless individuals
26. Beautification projects for a school, daycare or nursing home
27. Tree planting – plant trees in the community
28. Host a science field fair for schools
29. Environmental Awareness Fair – Research the effects of water pollution, air pollution or global warming.
30. Recycling and other environmental sustainability projects
31. Food Drive – Students will partner with a food bank to collect nonperishable food items for the homeless.
32. Repurpose Prom Dresses – Students will collect used prom dresses and make them available at little or no cost. Funds collected could be used for cleaning.
HEALTH – Awareness Campaigns
(could include making posters, flyers, videos, websites, presentations before groups, make and give away awareness bracelets, or ribbons etc.)
33. Teenage suicide and bullying awareness – Students will research facts about teenage suicide and/or bullying and design an awareness campaign using posters, skits, videos or an internet campaign
34. Child Abuse Prevention Month – April – Students will spread awareness of child abuse prevention by making posters, doing skits or making online campaigns.
35. Anti-smoking campaign – Research the effects of smoking and provide ways to quit smoking from local organizations
36. Walk-a-thon for charity of your choice
37. Diabetes Prevention presentation
38. Volunteer in nursing home and hospital settings
39. Hospice projects –blankets, cards, placemats
40. Collect pennies for cancer research
41. Health and Wellness Education Events/Fairs – Invite community presenters to set up displays and also make displays of your own.
42. Partner with Ronald McDonald House
43. Fundraising for domestic violence shelter
44. Human trafficking prevention awareness
45. Free car wash for an awareness campaign or a charity of your choice
46. Host party for a specific group of children – special needs, foster children, children of incarcerated parents, children with cancer, etc… (develop mentoring relationships)

47. Adopt a highway or beach – clean up the area and recycle the cans.
48. Beautification projects for local school, nursing home or daycare. Plant flowers, trees, or a vegetable garden. Build benches or bird houses.
49. Fundraising for Red Cross or charity of your choice
50. Make blankets or baby hats for a pregnancy center or neonatal hospital.
51. Provide a meal for needy individuals
52. Support the Troops – collect items for soldiers overseas
53. Partner with Habitat for Humanity to build a house
54. Teen Job Fair for teens in the community, invite local businesses
55. Partner with a local animal shelter – promote animal adoption, walk dogs, collect dog food or make doggie chew toys.
56. Organize a free yard sale – have people donate and exchange items
57. Partner with a homeless shelter – collect items they need, bake cookies or mentor children.
58. School Supplies Drive – collect school supplies for low income children.
59. Perform a Flash Mob Routine – Choreograph a dance to perform in a public place like a mall, to bring awareness to a special cause.
60. Aid elderly population to remain in home rather than move to institutional settings by assisting with housework or yardwork.

For more information about how to implement service learning projects, follow Edu-Services at abramstolden.wordpress.com.


National Service Learning Conference


I’m so excited about the 27th Annual National Service Learning Conference this week, from March 30 to April 2nd in Minneapolis, MN. The theme is “Educate – Ignite – Transform”.

My articles today and tomorrow will be dedicated to the hundreds of students, educators and government leaders from around the world who are gathering to share resources and ideas to improve their service learning efforts across the globe. It’s always an exciting and supportive event!

For more info, see http://www.servicelearningconference.org  and #SLC16

What Do Your T-Shirts Say About You?


Am I the only one who has an extensive collection of t-shirts from various events?  So I was in the process of doing a little decluttering, trying to fill up a box to be donated and I kept running across old t-shirts that I have been saving for years. Former clubs, sports teams, family reunions, charity fundraisers, employers, vacation souvenirs, etc. – each shirt with its own set of memories. Some had even been signed with names that are no longer familiar.

T-shirts are a good way to make a service learning project memorable. Recently, I saw some pictures on Instagram from a former student of mine. She and her friends were deeply involved in a paintball war – lots of fun!  Then I recognized the t-shirt she was wearing as one I had designed for our youth group over 10 years ago. I was surprised she still had it after finishing college, so I commented on her page, “hey, I remember that shirt!”  Later she replied that she felt bad that she got it all messy from paintball, but I was honored that she still had it.

I’ll bet that you can tell a lot about a person from their t-shirt collection!

Inspiring Lifelong Passion for Learning


Have you ever heard a high school student say that he or she can’t wait to be out of school? Maybe they want to take a break before college or maybe they are just done with education and feel that they are ready for the “real world”. Some of these students say they don’t think that school is preparing them for the “real world”. Adults usually discover that education does not stop after school, but is our education system preparing students for the world that is waiting for them?  How can students be encouraged to continue to learn and to apply what they learn to their lives?

When I was visiting a school in my community, I noticed a sign that displayed the vision of our local school district: “We inspire a lifelong passion for learning.” The mission of the district was also stated, “We prepare all students to achieve excellence by providing the highest quality education while empowering each individual to positively impact their families, communities and the world.”  These are strong words and impressive goals if that is truly what is being achieved.

After observing the effects of service learning on students, I’ve often wondered why it isn’t regularly incorporated into every curriculum from K-12. Service learning is a highly effective way to help students impact their communities.I don’t mean the extra “suggested activities” at the end of a unit that require extra planning for teachers. I’m talking about deliberate service learning lessons which incorporate learning objectives and result in a service project that benefits the community.

When students are afforded the opportunity to use classroom learning to impact real problems in the community, knowledge actually becomes power. Students not only develop a sense of purpose, but also the seeds for a “lifelong passion for learning” are planted.

Here’s what some students’ comments after completing service projects:  “Why don’t we do this all the time?” “I learned that I can do this next time.” “That was awesome! Can we do it again?” “It was a lot of work, but it was fun.”

In public education, it is necessary to assess the performance and progress of students, but testing is not the ultimate purpose. The vision of educators should be to inspire that lifelong passion for learning and the mission, to empower students to positively impact their families, communities and the world. Service learning is one way to pursue that vision and to live out mission. Next week, I’ll discuss some very practical ways to incorporate service learning into the curriculum.

Motivating Students to Serve

One morning after having worked with this particular class of high school students for about a month, I asked them, “what could you do to make your community a better place?”  The responses that came back surprised me. “I don’t care about this community.” “What does this community do for me?” “I hate it here!” “I can’t wait to move away from here.” “F*** this community!”  Wait. What?

This was a decent Florida city near the beach. It wasn’t perfect, but I have been to places that had a lot more problems. I had grown up on the southside of Chicago, for goodness sake, and I had lived in rural Mississippi for the last several years.

So it occurred to me that the one thing I could do was find out what the students hated so much about their community and see if they could do anything to make those things better.

So I had them brainstorm about some of the things that they didn’t like. This was especially effective when students made very negative comments about their school. Maybe they didn’t like their school lunches, or the campus was drab, or students were bullied a lot. It’s amazing to see students unite about an issue and instigate change. I’ve seen students beautify their campus, educate others about bullying and change their school lunch menus – all through service learning.

So how do YOU get youth motivated to serve?

Favorite CSL Project?

2012 CSL

Over the years, I have been involved in several community service projects and several service learning projects. Service learning projects were always my favorites because the youth developed the projects from infancy. They watched it grow and they learned so much from each project. I’ll share some of my favorites with you later, but first – What has been your favorite CSL project and why?