Handmade greeting cards are a sure way to boost someone’s spirits. Have students make cards for a holiday or just because, and send them to patients at a local veterans hospital or to residents at an assisted living facility.

Coin drives are fast and easy to set up, and there are many fun incentives to create excitement, such as dress-up days or a stunt by the principal after meeting a goal. And, the money collected can be donated in the school’s name to any charity. Run one all year long or just for a short time.

Find community service ideas for kids, classrooms, and families

Children stuck in the hospital may be feeling bored and lonely. Collect stuffed animals and create “activity bags” with puzzles and games to give to patients. Students can also make no-sew fleece blankets as a literal warm and fuzzy gesture.

Ask your district or state education office whether your school can be matched up with a needier one nearby. Collections can be taken up for items such as books for the library or for students to take home, toiletries, school supplies, toys and games to use in the classroom or to send home during the winter holidays, and clothing (especially warm clothes and outerwear for winter). Kids can also make birthday cards and valentines to send to students at the sister school.

Give students a chance to see how small gestures can mean so much. Collect toiletries to give to homeless shelters or shelters for victims of domestic violence, or arrange a field trip to a food pantry or soup kitchen. Students can help create meal packages to serve or deliver to those in need.

Schedule a beautification day within the wider community. Are there town parks that need to be cleaned up? Plant flowers, rake leaves, prune bushes, and help students learn how good it feels to get their hands dirty.

If students at the school wear uniforms, consider running a uniform swap closet for families. Collect gently used clothing throughout the year and provide tickets in exchange, so families can “shop” the closet as needed to find the sizes they require.

Partnering with a local wildlife organization allows kids to do good while they learn. Whether it’s protecting nesting sites or cleaning up habitats, the hands-on experience will make the subject matter fascinating.

The Pioneer Heritage Middle School PTO in Frisco transformed the school for a weeklong celebration of military heroes. Veterans Week combined lessons in civics—flag-folding ceremonies, learning about the American flag, and others—with community service. Students raised money for a local memorial and wrote thank-you notes that were given to veterans.

Through the PTA, students at Wetmore Elementary in San Antonio were involved in a variety of community actions. After 13 trees were planted on school grounds in the fall, 4th graders were responsible for watering them for the rest of the school year. (Staff custodians took over that duty during the summer.) And at a spring movie night, the admission fee was outgrown school spiritwear and unused school supplies, which were distributed to needy students the following fall.

Each December, the Myron J. Francis PTO in Rumford, R.I., runs a hat and mitten drive. New hats, mittens, gloves, earmuffs, and scarves in all sizes for both boys and girls are collected at the school’s front entrance, where everyone entering the building will see it. The items are passed on to needy individuals through more than 85 social service agencies throughout the state.

The PTO at Mason-Rice Elementary in Newton, Mass., has an amazing knack for mobilizing school families, which has led to an impressive list of achievements. In part this is because of a program called Kids Take Action, which focuses on hunger, endangered animals, and green initiatives. Among other efforts, students have volunteered at a farm whose entire harvest is donated to homeless shelters and food pantries and have gotten parents to cancel more than 1,900 mailed catalogs.