Culminating Project: Make a Difference

Connecting Language Arts to Civics

Students apply the knowledge and understanding that they have gained about civics and community responsibility to design and implement a community service project.  Once the project is completed, students reflect on the lessons learned and creatively express the ways that they can continue to make a difference in their communities as active participants and caring citizens.


Grade Levels: 3rd – 8th




Time: 3 class sessions (over a few weeks)



Computers with internet access

Make a Difference worksheet

A River Ran Wild: An Environmental History By Lynne Cherry, Gulliver Books (1992); ISBN: 0152005420

Chart Paper

Construction paper and butcher paper for art project



1.     Begin the lesson by brainstorming with students what makes a person a good citizen (depending on the make up of your school community, you may want to use an alternative term such as community member).  Have students think back to previous lessons and experiences and incorporate these ideas as well.  Point out that although voting is a very important part of citizenship, there are many ways for community members to contribute to their community.


2.     Have students take the ideas that were brainstormed and now relate them to their selves.  Ask students how they can be good citizens at school,… on the playing field,… at home,… in their neighborhoods? Write their responses on chart paper.


3.     Read and discuss the story, A River Ran Wild, by Lynne Cherry.  Discuss the events that took place leading to the death of the Nashua River and what the community did to bring the river back.  Point out how the efforts of one person encouraged a whole community to make a difference.  Discuss the various ways community members affected change (volunteering, passing new laws, etc).


4.     Ask students if they think that they can make a difference in their own community. Have them brainstorm issues that they would like to see changed.  Ask students to work in a team of 2-3 to choose an issue that they would like to work on and think through all of the ways that they could work to improve the given issue or situation.  Have students present their ideas to the rest of the class.  Work with students to group and narrow down ideas, and then decide what idea(s) they would like to work on as a class.  Encourage students to think about details to add to their plan of action once they have decided upon a project.


5.     Create a Plan of attack for your community service project.  Help students plan out their project with a realistic timeline so that they can measure their progress.  Encourage them to think about how they can publicize their efforts so that more people can get involved.  Once they have completed their project, invite school and/or community leaders to celebrate their efforts.


6.     Brainstorm what was learned during the community project and whole unit of study (depending on lessons that were taught).  Discuss with students the various ways that they made a difference.  Ask students to fill out the Make a Difference worksheet, keeping in mind all of the lessons that they’ve learned. 


7.     Use the ideas expressed in the worksheet for a class bulletin board or poster that can be hung in a prominent location within the school or in a local community center.  Students can write their ideas on paper dolls or paper houses that can be placed artistically together to create a community of caring citizens. 


CA Language Arts Standards

Grades 3rd- 4th: Listening and Speaking Strategies Students listen critically and respond appropriately to oral communication. They speak in a manner that guides the listener to understand important ideas by using proper phrasing, pitch, and modulation.

Grades 3rd- 4th:  Writing Strategies

Students write clear, coherent sentences and paragraphs that develop a central idea. Their writing shows they consider the audience and purpose. Students progress through the stages of the writing process (e.g., prewriting, drafting, revising, editing successive versions).

Grades 5th-8th: Listening and Speaking Strategies Students deliver focused, coherent presentations that convey ideas clearly and relate to the background and interests of the audience. They evaluate the content of oral communication.

Grades 5th-8th: Writing Strategies Students write clear, coherent, and focused essays. The writing exhibits the students’ awareness of the audience and purpose. Essays contain formal introductions, supporting evidence, and conclusions. Students progress through the stages of the writing process as needed.



Make A Difference


Write a list of ways that you think you can make a difference in your community.



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