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Planning a Saturday project

A significant part of your Make A Difference Day project must take place on Saturday, Oct. 23! Idea: If you have a food drive Monday-Friday, a student delegation can deliver it Saturday to a soup kitchen.


Help your students bring out the best in themselves by helping others. Use these ideas as a guide to develop a Make A Difference Day project that addresses community needs, improves teamwork and fosters goal-setting. Even the youngest kids can get involved. We offer plenty of suggestions from the simple to the ambitious. Aspects of your project may occur during the school week, but remember that a significant part of the work must take place on Make A Difference Day (the fourth Saturday in October). For example, collect games and other items for a toy closet at a local hospital pediatrics ward; arrange to deliver the items on the Day.

Why Participate?

Student benefits
Learn the value of helping others.
Develop a sense of civic responsibility and awareness of community needs.
Build self-esteem by accomplishing something worthwhile.
Improve teamwork.
Enhance academic skills such as research, communication and math reasoning.
Develop problem-solving skills.
Enhance awareness of diversity and develop mutual respect.

School benefits
Sustain student motivation and improve academic skills.
Enhance curriculum by extending learning beyond classroom.
Strengthen relationship between school and community.
Improve school image in community.
Foster sense of caring in students.

Curriculum connections

It's easy to relate a Make A Difference Day project to the curriculum by using the teaching philosophy of service-learning. This increasingly popular teaching method connects community service with academic learning, personal growth and civic responsibility. Here are some ways to do that:
These examples are just the beginning.

* Science: While studying local plant life, students can clean up a park or nature area. As part of an ecology unit, students can monitor water quality in a nearby river or lake.
* Social studies: Students can interview senior citizens about community service in years past or about a historical event they experienced.
* Math: Calculate the amount of food needed to feed a family of four for a week. Students can use the information to organize a food drive, charting the results or determining how many families have been helped.
* Language arts: Students can write and share stories or poems encouraging younger children to avoid drugs. Use the stories as the centerpiece of an anti-drug campaign. Or students can compose project plans and register the project in the online DAYtaBANK at
* Health: As part of a unit on nutrition, help prepare a meal at a shelter. Or plan a week's menu for a family, collect the items and deliver to a needy family.
* Civics: Conclude a study of citizens' rights and responsibilities with a Get Out and Vote community campaign led by students.
* Art: Students create an activity book for younger children. Make multiple copies. Distribute with crayons to public health clinics and emergency waiting rooms. Additional Resources

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Additional Resources
For more information on youth leadership development programs and activities, contact the National Service-Learning Clearinghouse at Learn and Serve America's Web site at

Grades K-3

Planning a Saturday project
A significant part of your Make A Difference Day project must take place on Saturday, Oct. 23! Idea: If you have a food drive Monday-Friday, a student delegation can deliver it Saturday to a soup kitchen.

Getting started
* Community walk: Invite students to be "detectives" on a class walk around your community. Ask them to spot possible service projects such as cleaning a littered park or recycling bottles and cans.
* Read aloud: Many picture books and short stories are available to introduce young children to service topics that can inspire a community project.

Language arts connections
* Have students use the Internet to write up project plans in the Make A Difference DAYtaBANK. Visit
* Create a book or newsletter called "WE MADE A DIFFERENCE," with each child's descriptions and comments.
* Draw on children's experiences helping at home to introduce the idea of helping at school or in the community. Turn it into drawings or written stories.

Family and community connections
* Send home information about Make A Difference Day to encourage families to talk about how they help in the community and to brainstorm project ideas with children.
* Let local media know how the school is taking an active role in Make A Difference Day. (See publicity section, page 34.)
* With a school administrator, present a Make A Difference Day certificate of recognition to each student.

Grades 4-8

Planning Make A Difference Day projects
Remember: To qualify for awards, a significant part of a Make A Difference Day project must occur Saturday, Oct. 23. Idea: Teach ecology the week before; clean a creek near the school on Saturday. Service can be done in many settings.

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Getting started
* Current events: Working in groups, students find news stories about people who make a difference by helping others. Present to class; compile all the stories in a poster display.
* Books: Encourage students to read about a person who stood for a cause or took a risk on behalf of others. Ask your librarian for suggestions.

Language arts connections
* In pairs, students interview each other about interests, skills and talents. Compile all the information into a class inventory to use as a reference when planning projects.
* Students write and perform skits dramatizing local problems. Discuss ways students can help.
* Document your project with photos and stories. Create a scrapbook.
* Have students use the Internet to write up project plans in the Make A Difference DAYtaBANK. Visit

Math connections
* Have students survey students in other classes, school staff and family members, asking respondents to identify national and community problems; graph the results. Discuss the significance of the students' findings.

Art connections
* Use newspapers and magazines to create collages that show national or local problems and what people are doing to help.

Parent connections
* Brainstorm ways students can involve parents and community members as they plan and carry out their projects.

* Arrange to have students describe service experiences to other classes, your parent-teacher organization or your school board.
* Display photos of students' Make A Difference Day projects in a prominent place in the school.
* Plan a recognition event/awards assembly with school administrators to present certificates of recognition to each student.

Grades 9-12

What's happening in the world? How do others see me? Do my actions count? High school students discover answers to these and other important questions through community service. Students apply their life skills in situations where people depend on them. They develop new relationships based on mutual respect, and a stronger sense of self-worth. As they become involved in service, teens who may not necessarily be part of a bigger circle at school or in their community take an essential step toward being responsible adults who can contribute equally.

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Planning Make A Difference Day projects
Teens may prefer to initiate their own projects; others may want to serve community agencies that welcome youth. Students also can refer to "Guide for Teens Planning Projects," next page. Remember, to qualify for a Make A Difference Day award, a significant part of your project must take place Saturday, Oct. 23.

Getting started
* Interview: Invite a person who has made a difference in your community through service to meet with the class. Students develop questions before the guest arrives. Have each student ask at least one question. Later, focus on what students learned about the rewards of service to others.
* Art: Students can create a mural depicting your community to display in the school.

Language arts connections
* Ask students to write about a time they helped or were helped by someone, including what they learned and felt.
* Identify organizations serving your community by polling other students, school staff, family and neighbors. In pairs, students research what services the organizations offer and any current needs, by phone, letter or visit.
* Have students use the Internet to write up project plans in the Make A Difference DAYtaBANK. Visit

Math connections
* Students develop a budget to accompany their community service project and record expenses and the value of donations received.
Current events connections
* Working in groups, have students monitor a social issue for a week. Have them note TV, radio and newspaper coverage. As a class, students report their findings: What stays in the news? Does the coverage match the issue's importance? How can a Make A Difference Day project address the issue?

* Seniors plan events to recognize Make A Difference Day contributions of juniors, juniors plan for sophomores, and so on.
* Students visit middle school classes to discuss ways they, too, can get involved in community service projects.
* Acknowledge students' for their volunteer efforts by presenting certificates of recognition at year-end awards assemblies.

More In Make A Difference Day

Make A Difference Day, the largest national day of helping others, is sponsored annually by USA WEEKEND Magazine and its 800 carrier newspapers. Make A Difference Day takes place on the 4th Saturday in October each year.