Heartfelt Wishes — Pay It Forward Activities for February and Beyond
- Grades: 6–8
During this time of year you most commonly see Valentine’s Day cards, flowers or perfume, and dinners at expensive restaurants. Although these are all swoon-worthy items that anyone would look forward to, the real heartwarming deeds are the ones we give from the heart without expecting anything in return.
In the past, I’ve blogged about the importance of service learning in the classroom and the positive outcomes of challenge-based learning. For the month of February my National Honor Society students have devoted themselves to Make-A-Wish Foundation’s “Heartfelt Wishes” campaign, which encourages local students to give a part of their heart by selling paper hearts around their school for $1. All proceeds collected go towards funding the wish of a child struggling with a life-threatening illness.
How It Works
Since we have over forty members, each received twenty hearts to sell in the hopes that we could gather a sizeable donation. All sold hearts are being hung inside of a giant heart outline hanging outside our school gymnasium. I love this project for many reasons. In the past, we have participated in this challenge and received amazing results. For instance, the money collected here at Randolph Central School helped grant the wish of a five-year-old girl with cystic fibrosis go to Disney World. Her mother sent us a handwritten letter proclaiming her overwhelming thanks and gratitude. Reading it, tears of joy ran down all of our faces. This year we hope to achieve similar results.
The Project Spreads
The best part about paying it forward is you never know who your generosity will affect. Upon seeing the pile of bright red hearts, my 7th and 8th grade students' curiosity was immediately piqued. We were working on researching the history of chocolate and Valentine’s Day, and I wasn’t expecting them to drop their project so readily. But upon hearing the story behind the “Heartfelt Wishes” hearts, they readily offered up their services. They decided as a group that they would make personalized 3-D hearts to send to the children awaiting wishes.
In addition, my students decided to send secret hearts and candy to different classrooms in our school. I couldn’t have been more proud of their efforts! Some overheard comments included “We should do this every year!” and “I wish I could see those little kids' faces when they get these!” I am overwhelmed by their willingness to help people they have never even met in the hopes of making their day brighter.
There are many ways to get middle school students involved in community service activities. See the site Kid Activities for some ideas. Beyond the intrinsic glow from giving, the benefits received include:
- Strengthened ties to the community
- Awareness of the world and global issues
- Communication and collaboration skills
- The ability to work with others toward a common goal
- Problem-solving and critical-thinking skills
With several weeks left, I anxiously await the final contribution total from my group. I know that regardless of how much money we generate, the impact we helped make on someone’s life will be priceless.