Teaching Kids to Give

Teaching Kids to Give - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog
Before I became a teacher I thought teachers taught subjects.  Like reading, writing, math, science, and music.  Boy, was I wrong.  

Teachers teach kids.  

And we don't just teach them the usual stuff.  Some of the subjects are highly specialized!  Here's a list of a few of the things I have taught my third graders this year:

  • not to run around screaming if a bee flies into the classroom
  • not to whack people on the head with _______ (insert any noun imaginable)
  • where to sit under the tree outside our classroom to avoid getting bird droppings on you
  • how to chew with your mouth closed
  • what it means to be respectful
  • not to pick your nose and rub it on your desk
  • where the giant Symphony chocolate bars can be found at Walmart
  • to give money to a good cause
This last one is my focus in this blog post.  My little K-8 country school has about 440 students.  When one of our staff came to us saying that she was raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society through Coins for a Cure, we decided to sponsor her as a school.  We needed to raise $2000.  That's a lot of money!
Teaching Kids to Give - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog

Each class decorated a big tin can and asked students to bring in spare coins from home.  The money trickled in slowly.  We are talking S-L-O-W-L-Y.  It takes a lot of coins to get to two thousand dollars.  Some of my students live in such poverty that they have no coins to give.  Others simply hadn't been taught the concept or the importance of giving and expecting nothing in return.  (I referred to the concept of tithes - giving away ten percent of your income - and not one of my students had any idea what I was talking about!)

One day, I was looking at the older model iPad that my sister had donated to my class (she's amazing that way) and realized that I needed to make the giving more personal for my students.  You see, my sister has leukemia.  After dealing with months and months of hospital stays and chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, she is in remission.  So I told my kids her story.  And they went home and told their families her story.  And guess what??
Teaching Kids to Give - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog

The parents caught the enthusiasm!  The students wrote letters to their parents, asking if they could do chores over spring break to earn coins for a cure.  I heard stories of washing cars, dishes, and even dogs.  I heard about vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, and raking.  (One student claims he was paid to stay in his room and leave his brother alone, but I haven't confirmed that story.)  

The results were amazing.

Teaching Kids to Give - Light Bulbs and Laughter Blog
By the time the fundraiser ended, our little school had raised $3,522.34, and almost $400 of that came from our classroom of 24 students.  My students were so happy and proud of this accomplishment!  My favorite response to the whole thing came from a kiddo who said, "Now your sister never has to have leukemia again!"  I hope and pray that he is right.

So here is my formula for teaching kids to give:
  1. find a worthy cause
  2. make it real - tell a story
  3. ask parents for help
  4. encourage kids to EARN their contribution
  5. add a silly school-wide incentive if it seems appropriate (yes, our principal has to kiss a pig because we reached our goal, and the kids love this!)
A terrific side benefit of this whole process is that kids get lots of practice handling and counting coins, a very important math skill!

Happy Teaching About Giving,