Celebrate MLK Day With Service, Volunteerism

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. committed his life to service and to promoting peace, equality and justice for everyone. In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday as a national day of service to honor his legacy through volunteerism. Service learning is a teaching method that combines instruction with meaningful community service. It helps to empower students, strengthen communities and create solutions to social problems. This Monday, January 20, celebrate MLK Day by engaging students with service projects in the local community.

Celebrate MLK Day with service projects for kids and students


10 Service Project Ideas for Students:

  • Put on gloves and visit the neighborhood park to pick up litter.
  • Gather your favorite classic board games and organize a board game night at your local nursing home.
  • Volunteer at the local animal shelter to feed, bathe and pet the animals.
  • Conduct a coat drive at your school or afterschool center and donate items to local charity organizations.
  • Collect gently used toys, video games and board games, and donate them to patients at a Children’s Hospital.
  • Locate a Special Olympics event in your area and volunteer to help or cheer on the athletes.
  • Collect aluminum cans from friends, family and neighbors, and donate the money to a local environmental charity.
  • Visit a local food bank and volunteer to pack and hand out food.
  • Run in a marathon to raise money for a cause.
  • Create anti-bullying posters to hang around the school and local community.

For more service project ideas, check out these resources:

366 Community Service Ideas

Global Youth Service Day


Teach Kids About the Life & Legacy of Nelson Mandela

On December 5, we mourned the loss of world-famous politician and civil rights hero Nelson Mandela, who died at the age of 95. Mandela, South Africa’s founding father, was a symbol of compassion, courage and commitment.  He spent 27 years in prison because of his work to end racial segregation in his home country. Mandela was a great example of the change we can make with unwavering strength, faith and wisdom, and today’s youth could learn many things from his life and legacy.

Ways to teach kids about the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela


Here is a list of 10 great resources to teach kids about Nelson Mandela:

  • Nelson Mandela Foundation | A great resource for preparing lessons on Nelson Mandela.
  • Remembering Nelson Mandela – Nelson Mandela biographies | Scholastic Parents: grades 1-2; grades 3-5; grades 6-8
  • Nelson Mandela: 1918-2013 | TIME for Kids:  Read the Nelson Mandela biography and view a slideshow of his life.
  • Mandela – History app | iTunes: Discover the story of Nelson Mandela through fun educational games.
  • Teaching Nelson Mandela | Education Week Teacher: See a compiled list of resources for bringing Mandela into the classroom.
  • Nelson Mandela | BBC – Primary History: Learn more about Mandela through biographies, photos, videos, activities, quizzes, and more.
  • Apartheid | BrainPOP Educators: Watch a movie on apartheid to discover Mandela’s fight to end racial segregation in South Africa.
  • Nelson Mandela | Picture Book Biography by Kadir Nelson: The life of Nelson Mandela is illuminated and celebrated through words and paintings.
  • Nelson Mandela quotes | BrainyQuote: Visualize Mandela’s life and legacy through inspirational quotes and sayings.
  • Tribute to Nelson Mandela | ABC News: Kids from around the world say what Mandela means to them over John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

Would you like to add any resources to the list? Share below!

10 Books to Teach Children About Gratitude

Thanksgiving is a time when everyone reflects on the many things for which they are grateful, such as family, good health, job, etc. However, studies show there are benefits to expressing gratitude year-round. An attitude of gratitude yields positive emotions, like joy and happiness, and can lead to improved relationships and greater physical health. During the holiday season, children may have the tendency to become self-centered and focus more on themselves than others. Check out the following 10 books for children to help foster a sense of gratitude that will remain long after the Thanksgiving holiday.
  • Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes and teaching children about gratitudeThanks a Million by Nikki Grimes, grades 1 – 5. Through a collection of 16 thoughtful poems, young children learn the importance of being thankful for everyday things.
  • The Berenstain Bears Thanksgiving Blessings by Mike Berenstain, grades k – 3. Children can ride along with the Bear family on Thanksgiving Day as Brother and Sister learn about all the things everyone can be thankful for, such as faith, family and the huge holiday feast.
  • Andy and the Lion by James Henry Daugherty , grades k – 2. This retelling of Androclus and the Lion delivers a simple message of the power of gratitude.
  • Giving Thanks by Jake Swamp, grades k – 2. Based on the Thanksgiving Address of the Iroquois people, this version provides insight on the Native American tradition of greeting the world each morning by giving thanks to all living things. The Thankful Book teaching children about gratitude
  • The Thankful Book by Todd Parr, grades preschool – 1. This book hones in on the little things children can be thankful for, from reading and bath time to family celebrations and quality time with parents.
  • Gratitude Soup by Olivia Rosewood, grades k – 3. Perfect for teaching children about gratitude with fun and play, this rhyming, colorful picture book combines collage and watercolors as Violet the Purple Fairy tells her own story of cooking with gratitude.
  • The Blue Daisy: A Lesson in Gratitude by Stacie Theis, grades k – 2. Filled with bright, colorful illustrations, The Blue Daisy delivers a simple message about gratitude and appreciation for what one has. Bear Says Thanks teaching children about gratitude
  • Thanksgiving Is for Giving Thanks by Margaret Sutherland, grades preschool – 4. Written as a celebration of family, friends, and the Thanksgiving holiday, this book encourages children to reflect on what they’re most thankful for during the holidays.
  • Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson, grades preschool – 3. In this playful and imaginative tale of family and friendship, young children will receive a great lesson on sharing and gratitude.
  • Secret of Saying Thanks by Douglas Wood, grades preschool – 3. This inspirational book teaches children about reflection and the importance of gratitude.

What are some ways that you teach your children about gratitude?

5 Ways to Celebrate Columbus Day

My First Biography: Christopher Columbus

Columbus Day is Monday, October 14! Christopher Columbus and his discovery of America are monumental in our country’s history. If you plan to honor the holiday, here are five ways to celebrate Columbus Day  in your class or extended learning program. Go beyond the familiar line, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue,” and teach students about Christopher Columbus’ journey to the New World in fun, exciting and yummy ways!

  1. Watch the Columbus Day movie on BrainPOP Jr. to introduce students to Christopher Columbus and to tell the story of his voyage to the New World.
  2. Have story time!  My First Biography: Christoper Columbus helps younger students understand the story of Columbus and offers a positive message of perseverance.   Also, check out Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus which contains engaging, artful pictures and true-to-history text that tells the story of Columbus’ journey.
  3. Make these veggie boats from the Oh Happy Day blog to represent the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. Gather a variety of vegetables, spreads and toothpicks to assemble the boats and make tasty snacks! Oh Happy Day: Veggie Boats
  4. Get students’ creative juices flowing with the Columbus Day Writing Craftivity from Teachers Pay Teachers. This free download will turn students into explorers as they write about what would have happened if they discovered America.
  5. Telescopes are great tools for exploration! Make the telescopes from recycled household items like cardboard tubes and paper cups.

Find more ways to celebrate Columbus Day on our Pinterest page!

How are you celebrating Columbus Day in your classroom or extended learning program?

Image sources:

Google search

Parent and Teacher Resources for Bullying Prevention

Parent and Teacher Resources for Bullying Prevention

October is National Bullying Prevention Month! In the United States, about one in four kids is bullied on a regular basis. Bullying and cyberbullying, bullying that  takes place using electronic technology, are forms of youth violence that can lead to physical injury, emotional distress or death. According to studies by Yale University, victims of bullying are two to nine times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims.  It has become a national crisis and parents and educators must take a stand against bullying! Below are valuable resources with information on how to identify bullying at home or in a school setting, and strategies on how to prevent it.



For more bullying prevention resources, visit our Pinterest board “Bullying Prevention”.

Image source:

How To Implement Blended Learning

Blended learning has become a big buzzword recently in the education field. It’s a learning initiative that pairs face-to-face instruction with online delivery of content and instruction. Blended learning promotes highly-personalized, student-centered learning and employs the smart use of technology. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan believes it is a great way to prepare 21st century students for college and careers.

Digital Learning Now recently updated their Blended Learning Implementation Guide. Check out their infographic below which explains blended learning, how to implement it in your classroom or program and what has influenced a blended learning model.

Infographic: How to Implement Blended Learning Version 2.0

5 Ways to Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month

National Hispanic Heritage Month is a month-long celebration that begins September 15 and ends October 15. It’s a great time to educate students on Hispanic and Latin American heritage, and to celebrate their contributions to the American culture! From their cultural music to the conquest of Mexico, there are endless activities for students to explore Hispanic and Latin American culture.

Here are 5 ways to kick start the celebration:

  • Play A Different Drum to learn about the percussion instruments that Spanish-speaking immigrants of the Caribbean brought to the United States.  Listen to the sound of each instrument and then match each instrument with the correct label. It’s also a great vocabulary lesson!
  • Take it a step further and make your own maracas! Gather empty toilet paper rolls, uncooked rice, masking tape, crayons and stickers. Cover one end of the toilet paper roll with masking tape. Then, pour the uncooked rice into the toilet paper roll and tape the other end. Finally, decorate the maracas with crayons and stickers. Listen to the Spanish Greeting Song and “shake-shake-shake” your maracas!
  • Discover the Conquest of Mexico with paintings from the seventeenth century! The eight paintings illustrate the battles between the Spanish and the Aztecs and other historical moments of the 1521 Spanish conquest of the native Aztec people. The beautiful artistry provides insight on the events leading up to the Conquest of Tenochtitlán (modern-day Mexico City). Challenge students to recreate their favorite paintings!

The Conquest of Mexico Paintings

  • Discover Repujado and make Mexican cuff bracelets! Repujado is the Mexican Metal Tooling Art technique which uses a rounded tool on the back side of soft metal to create a beautiful piece of raised art.
  • Columbus Day, or the Día de la Raza, is on October 12, so celebrate by exploring Christopher Columbus’ voyage from Spain to America! Students can draw a map of Columbus’ voyage and create replicas of his three ships: the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. Click here to see how it’s done!

How are you celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month?


Image sources: Library of Congress, Google image search

Patriot Day Activities and Ideas

September 11 is Patriot Day! This day commemorates the lives that were lost and the heroes who risked their lives saving others during the 9/11 attacks. The topic may be touchy for young students, but educators can celebrate Patriot Day with activities that are age-appropriate and that focus on patriotism.

Here are a few Patriot Day activities and ideas:

The Little Chapel That Stood is a great book to read to students on Patriot Day

Read a book. For a detailed account of the 9/11 tragedy, read America Is Under Attack: September 11, 2001: The Day the Towers Fell, which uses sensitive language and watercolor illustrations to narrate the events of the day. The book touches on everything from the hijacking of the planes to the collapse of the buildings. For a story of courage and bravery, read The Little Chapel That Stood about the historic chapel less than 100 miles from the Twin Towers that remained standing after the attacks.

Watch the BrainPOP video explaining terrorism and recounting the events of September 11, 2001.  The video is animated and a great discussion starter.

Visit the National Counterterrorism Center Kids Zone for games and activities, educational resources and a coloring book.

Make an American flag. Trace a flag outline on a piece of white construction paper. Have students tear pieces of red, white and blue paper, and glue them down to form the stripes and blue area of the flag.  Use white star stickers to represent the stars on the US flag.

Make a paper flag collage with students to celebrate Patriot Day

Honor a hero. Discuss patriotism and have students write thank-you notes to heroes in the community, such as police officers, firefighters, nurses, etc.

Sing patriotic songs. Teach students the lyrics to “You’re a Grand Old Flag” or “This Land Is Your Land” and sing the song together.

For more Patriot Day ideas and activities, visit our Pinterest board “Patriot Day Activities.”

Image sources:,

Back-to-School: Building Community

It’s time to bid adieu to the summer and welcome in the new school year!

Create a positive and inclusive learning environment by building community in your after school program

New and returning students will file into your after school center buzzing with excitement and eager to take on new challenges.  More than likely, your after school program serves students from different grade levels, with diverse personalities, backgrounds and learning needs. The best way to establish a positive and inclusive learning environment is to build community at the beginning of each school year.

During the first week of your program, try an icebreaker to help students get to know each other and your staff! It’s also a fun way to calm first-week jitters and kick off the new year.

Here are 2 icebreakers to try with your students:

“Getting To Know You” Beanbag Toss

What You Will Need:

space, beanbag or ball

How To Play:

  • Have everyone stand in a circle
  • Start the game off by throwing the beanbag or ball to someone in the circle, simultaneously asking a question such as “What’s your name?”, “What’s your favorite food?”, “What’s your favorite cartoon?”, etc.
  • The person who catches the beanbag/ball must answer the question and then throw it to someone else and ask their own question

**The game works best when it moves quickly so young students may need help asking their questions.

(source: Activity Village)

Build community among students with an icebreaker activity

“Meet Your Classmates” BINGO

What You Will Need:

paper, markers, pens/pencils, bowl or box container, copier

How To Play:

  • Prepare a BINGO sheet that contains the same number of squares as there are students in your program (15 students = 15 squares)
  • Have each student write his/her name on a small piece of paper and place it in a bowl or box container
  • Give each student a prepared BINGO sheet
  • Let students walk around and gather signatures from other students (one signature per square)
  • When all sheets are filled, begin playing BINGO
  • Reach into the bowl/box and pull out a student’s name
  • Call out the names and let students mark off that name on their BINGO sheets
  • The first person to get a full row of names calls out BINGO and wins the game
  • The winner can call out the name in the second round of BINGO and so on

(source: EducationWorld)

An icebreaker is a surefire way to build community in your after school program. The activities are great to do in the beginning but are also effective throughout the year. What are ways that you build community in the beginning of the school year?

27 Steps to Becoming a 21st Century Educator

Developing 21st century learners has been a hot topic lately in education. But what about developing 21st century educators? Being a 21st century educator is more than incorporating technology in the classroom. It’s creating a collaborative learning environment that sparks creativity, innovation and communication among students.

Have you taken the leap into 21st century learning?

Check out this infographic from for ways you can morph into a 21st century teacher.

Infographic briefly explaining 27 Ways to Be a Better 21st Century Educator

Do you have anything to add to this list? Please share!