Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Service Projects for Kids?

From the bean of Green Bean.

It was a cool and foggy September morning.  I knew which day it was.  Saturday, the 20th.   I had had this date marked on my calendar for months, even a year.

Still, I ignored the calendar entry.  There were so many other things I could do on a quiet Saturday morning.  The kids could be sucked in by screen time, forbidden during the week.  I could work in the garden, plant seeds for fall, lay down sheet mulch for spring.  Hit the Saturday farmers market instead of the Sunday one.  The possibilities were endless.  And yet, I had wanted to do this since last year.  Or at least thought we should try it.

Pick up other people's trash.

I loaded the kids and hubs into the car and headed West, to the beach, to join in our first ever California Coastal Cleanup Day.  When we arrived, the parking lot was an empty.  A single gentleman surrounded by empty trash bags and paperwork waved us over, set us up and we were off.

Creeping over invasive ice plant and down along the kelp washed up on the shore, we scoured and picked, like a treasure hunt.  One son proudly found a Starbucks cup and straw.  The other, not to be outdone, located a full beer bottle amongst the seaweed.  "I saved a sea turtle, " shouted one, waving a deflated balloon.  "I saved some fish," bragged the other, holding a straw overhead.

By the time we had reached the end of the beach - our bags full of Styrofoam and plastic, we turned to head back.  Apparently, we were just the first of many volunteering that morning.  The shore crawled with a boy scout troop, twenty-somethings on a "girls day out", a 4H group, and a number of others aiming to make the world - or at least our little sandy corner of it - a better place.

We left invigorated, excited about the prospect of having made a difference and without having found a single plastic bag - thanks to our county-wide bag ban that went into effect over a year ago.  My family cannot wait until next year to pick up more trash.  (In fact, we may not wait).

But in the meantime, what our service projects would you recommend for children?  How, as the holidays of overindulgence come roaring around the corner, can we keep that sense of giving alive?  What service projects have you done and how have you liked them?


Lindsay said...

I did a lot of service work and trash pick ups as a kid and think it really helped shape who I am today. It was a sobering and important exercise in global citizenship. Thanks for writing about this and encouraging good habits early on!

Betsy Escandon said...

Yay for no plastic bags! We have a lot of service opportunities through our church and there is a website justserve.org that coordinates with the larger community. It can still be tough to find service projects that work for the littlest ones. We did help clean up a large city park and the kids liked that and we always help at the school beautification day before school starts. Picking up trash is such a great lesson for everyone about what gets left behind, what we should avoid.

Lori Popkewitz Alper said...

What an incredible gift you've given to your children. It's so important to teach them different ways to care for the earth. I need to do more of this with my own!

Tiffany said...

This is so important! I really do need to get my kids more active in this area.

Surviving and thriving on pennies said...

I really love this! We always pick up trash no matter where we go. Its a little at a time but it adds up! Especially when you have a family of 6.

Sara Vartanian said...

Your post reminds me that I want to involve my children in more acts of service. Thanks for writing this, it is motivating.

Jen said...

We pick up trash too and also donate gently used clothing and toys to other kids in need. I let him pick out what to donate and explain to him why we are doing it.

Brenna said...

I love that you did this with your children! We have local service days where we help clean up and beautify our city, ivy pulls in the woods, and beach clean-ups, plus our small local food pantry allows children to volunteer too. We've had some opportunity to participate, but it always seems like we can do more. Such a gift!

What I Want My Kids To Know said...

Service work is a core part of children's learning. I remember all the service projects I did and they were all wonderful experiences, they really help kids see what they are really interested in and makes them care about the world around them.


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