As art teachers, we inevitably have various students who finish their assignment before the rest of the class. There are already so many great ideas out there about what you can have those students do such as be student helpers, create at stations, or work on coloring pages.
In my classroom, I like to encourage early finishers to give back to our community by working on simple, yet rewarding, service projects! Children get so excited about doing for others and it is easy for them to brighten someone’s day just by creating beautiful artwork!
Here are some fun, easy ways for those early finishers to give back…
Dog Pull Toys Ask your local Project Linus chapter to save their fleece scraps for you. Sort out the long, thin strips and make these available to your students. They can tightly knot and braid them to make dog pull toys. (Find easy instructions on how to make these on YouTube!) Donate the finished pull toys to your local animal shelter, dog rescue group or pet food pantry for their clients!
Lunch Bags Decorate brown paper lunch bags with construction-paper crayons. Students can write bubble letter sayings such as ‘Enjoy your Meal’ or ‘Have a nice day!’ along with drawings and designs. My local Meals on Wheels chapter loved this idea so much that they even supplied the paper bags for us! After designing a large stack of bags, you can simply drop them off at Meals on Wheels and they will use the bags to pack their food in for deliveries to homebound seniors.
Greeting Cards It’s great to use 9″ x 12″ drawing or construction paper as well as colored paper scraps to make wonderful greeting cards. Students can make thank-you cards for veterans for their service, or local police and fire departments for helping keep the community safe.
Another wonderful place to send cards is to children in hospitals. Cards for Hospitalized Kids is one organization that collects and distributes the greeting cards, or you may drop them off yourself at your local children’s hospital.
Tissue Paper Flowers Use green pipe cleaners for stems and a variety of colored tissue paper for the flowers. (There are many YouTube tutorials that illustrate easy ways to make different types of flowers.) Students can attach the stems to baskets or put them in inexpensive vases for display. I’ve found free or cheap baskets/vases at garage sales, on Freecycle, or in the clearance section of Michael’s Arts & Crafts store. (You may also ask families to donate them.)
Finished flower arrangements can then go to senior living facilities where they are sure to make residents smile!
Placemats Create colorful seasonal or holiday placemats for seniors living in residential homes. Use 12″ x 18″ white drawing or construction paper and bold markers. A favorite of mine is for students to make Thanksgiving placemats with beautiful autumn decorations on them! Once your students have finished a group of them, donate the placemats to your local nursing homes!
My students seem to get as much pleasure from these activities as the recipients do. I hope these ideas inspire both you and
• The American Legion: www.legion.org
• Meals on Wheels: americaletsdolunch.org
• Cards for Hospitalized Kids: www.cardsforhospitalizedkids.com
• Project Linus: www.projectlinus.org/volunteer/
• The Freecycle Network: www.freecycle.org/
Anne M. Hoffman is an art teacher, substitute teacher, and the secretary at Shabonee School in Northbrook, Illinois.
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