School Gives Students PE Credits for Helping Elderly and People With Disabilities To Do Yard Work

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When kids volunteer, they change their lives and the lives of others. Here are plenty of ideas for kids to volunteer with their families.

A school in Iowa is trying something new that not only helps students but the community as well. Instead of running laps or doing push-ups, kids from The Alternative Learning Center are doing yard work for local folks who can’t do it themselves.

The ALC is a school for high school juniors and seniors who are in danger of dropping out. Educators there understand the importance of teaching kids the joy of helping others. So, during the last two weeks of the school year, pupils get to choose from several different activities that will count toward their Physical Education requirements.

Pulling weeds, raking leaves, cleaning gutters, cleaning out flower beds and much more is how many of these kids volunteer and meet their credit requirements for graduation.

Now the disabled and the elderly in Dubuque can count on these high school students to make sure their yards are beautiful and neat- even though they can’t do it themselves.

Tim Hitzler is a teacher there and says that this kind of program benefits not only the homeowners but the teens as well.

“The students aren’t typically too excited at the beginning but once they get involved and start doing the yard work they become more motivated. What they really like is helping people. They really like giving back to people and meeting the person.”

Volunteering to help neighbors who can’t get out and do yard work themselves is one way to foster a sense of belonging and accountability for kids (and adults) for all ages.

Volunteering and Acts of Service for Kids

“A research study published in PLoS One from the Public Library of Science finds that toddlers under the age of two are happier when giving treats to others than receiving treats themselves. Furthermore, children are happier when they give their own treats away than when they give an identical treat that doesn’t belong to them.” – PsyPost

“People tend to assume that toddlers are naturally selfish,” said Dr. Lara Aknin. “These findings show that children are actually happier giving than receiving.”

Kids who begin volunteering while they are young are more likely to continue volunteering into adulthood. Volunteering teaches empathy, caring, and kindness. They learn that the world is a big place, with a lot of unmet needs. We as parents can help them discover they can be a part of the solution and that’s a pretty empowering lesson.

Today’s children will be tomorrow’s world-changing adults when they learn to love being good to people – especially when people cannot return the gift.

Volunteer Opportunities for Kids and Parents

Gleaning. Picking fruits and vegetables from fields after farmers have finished their harvest is a brilliant way to feed those who need it. Here’s a list of gleaning organizations across the USA. Not every community has a group of volunteers set up to do this. But if you live in a farming community, reach out to your local government to find a program or work with farmers to start one.

Pick up litter. It doesn’t have to be on a dangerous road. Grab a trash bag and head to a park or walking path.

Food pantry. Your kids can run their own food drive. They could host a party where friends bring non-perishable foods instead of gifts. They could sell used toys or clothes to buy food to donate. There are so many ways to bless a pantry in your community.

Clean up old things for donations. It’s great to dump lots of your kids’ stuff in the trunk and drop it at Goodwill. But, that doesn’t teach them as much as working together to clean everything up, make sure it’s working, and donate it. For instance, with a good scrubbing or inflating tires, old bikes can be new bikes to someone else.

Write letters to service members. Operation Gratitude has plenty of ways kids can say thank you to the men and women who wear the uniform.

Create a bee-friendly garden. Helping the planet is such a powerful way for kids to learn about being good citizens of the world. Saving the bees is one of the easiest ways they can do that. In addition to a bee garden, kids can also make little bee baths they can fill with fresh water each day.

Put together a tiny library. Mom and Dad can work with their kiddos to build little lending libraries. Get some info about putting one together here. 

How Do You Encourage Your Kids to Volunteer?

Help other parents by commenting with your tips and ideas for family volunteering. I’m sure there are countless great ideas!

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