Service Learning: Elementary Schools

Students in Grade 6 are expected to complete and document 5 hours of service learning. Your school may ask students in other grades to also complete service learning projects. If you are completing a service learning project outside of school, use the service learning rubric and reflection to help you evaluate your project. Here are some ways elementary school students in Fairfax County are helping their community.

Elementary school students in Fairfax County are helping their community!               


Students across Fairfax County have had many opportunities to get their hands dirty this spring, working in the many outdoor classrooms that are springing up in Fairfax County Public Schools. Check out these examples from schools around the county.

At Franconia ES, Laurel Ridge ES, and Lemon Road ES, students are growing food in their school gardens, including corn, pumpkins, beans, tomatoes, onions, cabbage, cantaloupe, and lettuce. At Franconia ES, students are using the garden to plant healthy food and learn healthy eating habits from their Physical Education teacher, Chris Aracich. The garden is supported by matching grants from Franconia’s PTA and the Northern District Virginia Dietetic Association. At Laurel Ridge ES, students make their own compost to add to the garden beds. By making their own compost, the students reduce waste from the cafeteria and improve the soil for the garden plants. Lemon Road ES is sharing the produce from their school garden with Share of McLean, which runs a food pantry for needy individuals. The produce was grown from seeds donated by Whole Foods Tysons. To see the Franconia garden in action, check out this video.

Many schools are also planting gardens to attract monarch butterflies. The number of monarchs is decreasing dramatically due to loss of habitat and food sources. Second graders in Fairfax County Public Schools study the monarch lifecycle and plant milkweed, a food source for monarchs. Milkweed has been disappearing due to the use of herbicides, so by planting milkweed, students can have a positive impact on the monarch population. At Eagle View ES, the school’s Eco-Team has created a certified Monarch Waystation called Nathan’s Garden, in honor of Nathan Prante-Price who attended pre-school at Eagle View ES. Nathan had a rare genetic condition, Cockayne Syndrome, and the symbol that the Share & Care Cockayne Syndrome Network has chosen for children with this condition is the butterfly. When Nathan’s mother, Karen Prante, heard of efforts to restore the monarch population, she was determined to plant milkweed in her own garden and reach out to schools to do the same. Churchill Road ES has also recently added a pathway of mosaic pavers to their monarch butterfly garden, in order to protect the plants while the second graders are using the garden for their studies. The mosaic pavers were made by third graders who were studying mosaics in ancient Greek and Roman art. Click here to see a video of the Churchill Road students in action.

eco school students

Several schools also celebrated Earth Days and Earth Weeks this spring, often combining arts and crafts activities with environmental stewardship. At Belle View ES, teachers took their classes outside to explore Belle View’s many gardens and look for evidence of the creatures that make the school grounds their homes. Each grade used specific activities aligned to the appropriate FCPS Program of Studies. Activities included creating a handprint collage on the parking lot wall, a recycled art show, an art show based on nature, and a recycled fashion show. Fairview ES celebrated an eARTh Day Festival focused on recycling, including hands-on eco crafts, recycling games, a Zen room, a book swap, “trashion” show, found object art exhibit, and a silent auction to raise money for an outdoor classroom and rain garden at the school.

Daniels Run ES has received a Lowe’s Toolbox for Education grant to turn an unused courtyard into a Literacy Garden, using an interdisciplinary approach to increasing literacy and writing skills. The outdoor classroom will include a pollinator garden, wildlife habitat, wetlands, dry-bed stream, and benches, and incorporate elements of science, math, social studies, history, and art, as well as Language Arts. For example, the Hungry Little Caterpillar pollinator garden will include caterpillar host plants to demonstrate life cycles and local species.

Registered Eco-Schools have the opportunity to achieve different designations from the National Wildlife Federation, the highest of which is the Green Flag. Flint Hill ES has become the latest Fairfax County Public School to earn the Green Flag, after Centreville ES, Churchill Road ES, and Lanier MS. Pictured below are Flint Hill principal Sal Rivera and the National Wildlife Federation’s Vice President of Education, Kevin Coyle. For more information about the Eco-Schools program, visit the NWF website or the FCPS Get2Green program, which oversees the Eco-Schools program here in FCPS.

eco school banner

 Canterbury Woods ES

Students at Canterbury Woods play on a Unified Special Olympics tennis team, designed to promote social inclusion through shared sports training and competition. Unified sports join people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team who develop tennis skills along with friendships. Twenty-eight students are on the team: 13 athletes (students with disabilities) and 15 partners (students without disabilities). This year, the Canterbury Woods team played two matches against the Alexandria Special Olympics tennis team. Eight staff members volunteer to work with the team: Ashley McFeely, Dee Castillo, Eric Struzik, Lauren Dowd, Tessa Donnelly, Susan Betts, and Maura Collins. Some of the sixth grade partners have even asked if they can return to the school to volunteer with the program after they move on to middle school!
"The Unified Tennis Program at CWES was a good experience for me and all of the kids that we worked with.  I thought that the way they paired up kids was a good way for the helpers to really get to know the other kids. It also brought out the potential as leaders for the kids that helped while everybody had fun doing it." – Tyler Brocato, student partner

“The Unified Tennis Program was an amazing experience for both of my boys.  My son with autism was able to get to know new kids at school and develop relationships with them, and my typical son loved helping out and playing with his partner.  The friendships formed and the feeling of community was enjoyed by all who were involved!  I am looking forward to the Unified Tennis Program next year!” – Meg Davenhall, mother of two participants

“The program really helped bring all of the kids together. The partners and athletes trained together as friends, and developed relationships that lasted beyond our last practice and showed up in the classroom and on the playground as well.” – Maura Collins, teacher


Mosby Woods ES

quiltThe Do-Gooders Club at Mosby Woods Elementary recently had an opportunity to help design a quilt for the Love Quilt Project, which presents handmade quilts to orphans in South Africa who have lost their parents to AIDS. Club members learned how to create and piece together a quilt with meaningful and artful squares.  The club, which includes 3rd – 6th graders, has set a goal to “clean up the school inside and out, physically and socially.” They meet monthly to plan events such as trash collections, making and distributing treats for staff members, writing farewell posters for the 6th grade class, making bracelets for children in foster care, delivering meals with the Meals on Wheels program, and creating PSAs to encourage volunteerism. They have many more great ideas planned for next year!

Haycock ES

All grade levels of students at Haycock Elementary have participated in a unique service learning program in which they get hands-on experience across a wide range of subjects and, in the process, learn the importance of being thoughtful citizens in their school, neighborhood, and world.

Kindergarteners learned about heroes in the U.S. military and tried on different kinds of camouflage. Then, they put their newly-acquired letter writing skills to use by writing to sailors stationed overseas. First graders learned about recycling and the rainforest, put on a play about protecting the rainforest, and made bird feeders out of recycled materials. While learning about Native Americans, second graders studied the Lakota and then wrote to their new pen pals on the Rosebud Indian reservation in South Dakota.  Every day they eagerly awaited their responses and are now talking about Skyping with their faraway friends.

Haycock’s third graders voted to help endangered animals. Each student became an expert on one endangered animal and made podcasts to share what they learned. They also made notecards to raise money for the World Wildlife Fund. Haycock’s fourth graders learned that 25% of the homeless people suffer from mental illness and helped Maddie’s Blankets make dozens of blankets. In the fifth grade, students are using their global knowledge to examine a problem facing one of the countries they studied and raise awareness about that problem at school.


Sixth grade is the culmination of Haycock’s service learning program. The students each picked their own service topic, researched it, and performed at least five hours of community service. They will also explain their projects to others at the upcoming Service Fair. Their intensive efforts in areas that interest them have been inspirational.

Union Mill ES

The Union Mill Elementary Student Council recently sponsored a donation drive to benefit the Fairfax County Animal Shelter. The students collected food, treats, leashes, collars, toys, crates, bedding, laundry detergent, paper towels, batteries, Ziploc bags, and more! The Fairfax County Animal Shelter was thrilled with the delivery. The students learned collaboration and communication skills as they worked together to organize the drive.

students students

Dogwood ES

Students at Dogwood ES are using STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) to help their community. The school recently held its annual Science Share Fair, inviting students to share an independent science investigation on environment, energy, or engineering solutions. For example, two students demonstrated the robotic car they designed to pick up a load and carry it to its destination. But students at Dogwood have been finding these kinds of helpful solutions all year, both in class and after school in their STEM club. Students have brainstormed solutions for plastic pollution and raised awareness about recycling. They also researched the problem of soil erosion on their school grounds, which has led the students to install vegetable gardens and rain barrels to capture storm water and prevent erosion. What great ideas will they think of next?

students students students

Fairhill ES

In observance of National Poetry Month, students and staff members at Fairhill Elementary recently celebrated Poem in Your Pocket Day, carrying poems in their pockets and sharing them with each other throughout the day. Students also participated in poetry buddies during enrichment time, selecting poems to share with one another. Students in the upper grades paired with primary students to read, laugh, and talk about poetry. Whether sharing an original composition, a new discovery, or a beloved favorite, everyone found that poetry can make learning engaging and fun, and the older students were able to positively impact the younger students by sharing their enjoyment of poetry. Check out these quotes from participating students:

“I like ‘Poem in Your Pocket Day’ because you have written thoughts in your paper.  Then you can share it and also learn things from other people.  Each poem is different and people can look and read it in a different way; this makes every poem unique to read.”

“One thing I loved about Poem in my Pocket was that I loved the poems of others.  What I love most is hearing the poems of future writers or past great ones.”

students  students  students

Lake Anne ES

When the Romano family at Lake Anne ES offered to help students walk or bike to school for International Bike to School Day last spring, they never imagined they would have 50 children at their door! Inspired by this overwhelming response, the family worked with the Lake Anne community to create a monthly “Walk and Roll” event for students to walk and bike to school. Beginning with International Walk to School Day last fall, and continuing on the first Friday of each month, students and parents gather at a nearby park to play and enjoy breakfast treats and coffee (donated by local businesses) before heading together to school. Participating students receive a special tag each month to collect on a key chain. The event has been popular with families all year, even during the long and snowy winter, and has helped to foster a greater sense of community in the neighborhood. Walking and biking to school also reduces pollution and supports a healthy lifestyle, so it’s a great fit for the school’s Eco-School program. Lake Anne has developed its school grounds into outdoor gardens, reduced waste, and conserved energy, earning its Eco-School program a silver award!

This year the bike parking racks at Lake Anne were full, as almost 100 students participated in International Bike to School Day on May 7. Did your school participate? If not, find out how you can participate in the fall in International Walk to School Day. Your school may find that biking and walking is so much fun, you’ll want to do it all the time! To support your school’s program, check out the FCPS Safe Routes to School website or contact Sally Smallwood, Safe Routes to School Coordinator.

"I like not riding the bus and getting to see my friends and walk together before school" --Claire
"My favorite part is collecting key chains each month. I have a key chain token from every single month" --Shira


bikesleaving school


Groveton ES

Sixth graders at Groveton are working with reading teacher Markeen Sutter to help kindergarten students with limited letter knowledge. The sixth graders have learned how to use the FCPS Letter Tracing Books to model how to trace and say each letter for the younger students. The kindergarten students then trace and repeat the letters in the tracing book. If they do the exercise incorrectly, or do not recognize the letter, their sixth grade buddy models the letter and works with them to identify the letter. As a result, fewer kindergarteners are now in need of letter remediation. Here’s what the participants had to say about the program:

Kindergarteners said…
“I’m learning how to make the ABCs.”
“Tracing helps me make letters.”

Sixth graders said…
“I really enjoy watching them learn.”
“I’m learning patience because sometimes they don’t get it at first, but then they keep on trying and finally get it.”
“I’m learning what it’s like to be a teacher!”

Would you like to help younger students at your school? Talk to your counselor to find out if there’s a way you can help!



Waples Mill ES

The Waples Mill Elementary community participated in Martin Luther King, Jr., Day of Service projects in conjunction with Volunteer Fairfax, the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia, and Youth Service America. More than 80 Waples Mill students and their parents, as well as three teachers, decorated goody bags for children receiving long-term medical care at the local Ronald McDonald House, created greeting cards for military personnel serving overseas or recuperating in a hospital (for Operation Gratitude), and made colorful tissue paper flower bouquets to be delivered to local senior centers and women’s shelters on Valentine’s Day. One parent “was glad to set the day apart as not just a day off, but to remember its purpose.”  Here are some of the students’ reflections on what made the day meaningful to them:

“Meeting people and making friends who like to volunteer” - Kindergarten student
“The cards to soldiers made me feel grateful for their service” - 5th grade student
“I made something that would make somebody smile” - 6th grade student

students students


Westgate ES

At Westgate Elementary, second grade students in Leanne Sullivan’s class learned to help others by participating in a service project on Monday, December 16. The students made holiday hope chests by decorating shoe boxes that they filled with small toys and gifts donated by their families. The students also made cards to include in each box. The 13 finished chests were donated to Children’s National Medical Center. The students were so inspired by their project that they have decided to make and sell bracelets to raise money for cancer research. They have set an ambitious goal of $17,000! To see the students in action, check out this video.

  westgate studentswestgate students westgate studentswestgate students

Belvedere ES

First graders at Belvedere ES have been working hard to collect tree seeds for the county of Fairfax. The students collected and sorted over 1,000 seeds, all while learning to identify and differentiate tree species. The tree seeds will first be planted in the school’s tree nursery and then, when they’re big enough, will be planted around the county to help expand the tree cover. Belvedere is a candidate school in the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (PYP), and this project was the culminating activity in the first grade’s first PYP unit, in which students learned that citizens impact the community. Through their efforts the first grade team was able to collect 871 usable seeds and understand the impact that students can have as citizens.


Terra Centre ES

First grade students got their hands dirty at Terra Centre Elementary recently as they planted red emperor tulip bulbs. Before the planting, the students learned how tulips grow and about their relationship to the climate. They plan to record when the tulips emerge and bloom on the Journey North website, which encourages interactive global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change, to view trends. Once the tulips have bloomed, the students will pick them and place them in vases made by kindergarten students for delivery to Heatherwood, a local retirement home.


Fox Mill ES

On October 17, Fox Mill Elementary students, teachers, and families participated in the eighth annual Walk for the Homeless. The event, organized by the Fox Mill PTA with support from Fannie Mae, benefits Cornerstones, a Reston non-profit organization that helps people in need of food, shelter, childcare, and other services. In addition to raising funds to help the homeless, this annual event raises awareness of homeless people who live in the community. Throughout the week, students learned about homelessness on the morning announcements and from age-appropriate books that PTA volunteers read aloud. Student council officers also visited the Embry Rucker Community Shelter and shared what they learned with their classmates.  For example, students learned that the majority of the homeless in their community are families with working adults. Says one student, Michelle, “I think that the Walk for the Homeless is an awesome program and now every Christmas I go to the Homeless shelter and do Christmas caroling with my Dad and friend. The Walk for the Homeless really changed my thinking about people who are homeless.” Pictured below are Fox Mill’s principal, Mie Devers, leading the warm up before the walk, and fourth grade student Kaylyn Siegfried, who designed the winning artwork for Fannie Mae’s 2013 Walk for the Homeless T-shirt, which will be used across the country.

Fox Mill teacher   Fox Mill student

Fairfax Villa ES

On Veterans Day, Fairfax Villa ES invited veterans to a patriotic-themed assembly. Students in Fairfax Villa’s SuperKids Club escorted the veterans to a seat of honor and gave them the lapel pins and thank you cards they had made. Students in grades 4-6 performed patriotic songs for the guests. As part of the observance of Veterans Day, Fairfax Villa students also wrote thank you notes and created artwork to send to members of the military serving overseas and those recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

thank you for your service

Chesterbrook ES

On Saturday, October 5, Chesterbrook ES participated in the McLean Run with the Warriors 5K, an annual event to benefit Chesterbrook’s neighbor, the Wounded Warrior Transitional Housing at Vinson Hall Retirement Community. Chesterbrook faculty members ran as a team, as did members of the school’s Girls on the Run group.  Chester the Chipmunk, the school mascot, ran for the third straight year.  Fifth and sixth grade students staffed the water stop and the school chorus performed for the crowd. It’s a great example of a school community partnership!

chesterbrook studentschesterbrook students chesterbrook studentschesterbrook students

Marshall Road ES

The Green Team at Marshall Road ES is working to make the school a greener place by initiating several new projects for the 2013-14 school year.  Students are performing daily waste audits to monitor the amount of trash and recycled items coming from classrooms.  The group is also spearheading a food sharing program, enabling team members to collect unopened food items from the cafeteria that will be donated to a local food bank.  Team members are encouraging students to compost items from the cafeteria and are collecting juice pouches for the TerraCycling program.  PTA members are supporting the Green Team’s efforts to work in the school garden.  If you’d like to get involved with Marshall Road’s Green Team, contact Mackenzie Kraus at Do you want to start a similar program at your school? More than 60 FCPS schools have become Eco-Schools. Visit the Eco-Schools website to find out more or contact the FCPS Environmental Stewardship Resource Teacher, Elaine Tholen, at

marshall road studentspapermarshall road students

Groveton ES and Eagle View ES: CHALK4PEACE

The mission of CHALK4PEACE is to bring communities together to advocate for peace, so it was a fitting activity in honor of the International Day of Peace on September 21. On September 20, each grade at Groveton ES was responsible for filling a section of the school’s sidewalk with peaceful art. The students’ artwork correlated to the artistic theme for their grade level; for example, sixth graders focusing on identity were asked to draw what peace means to them, while second graders focusing on community were asked to draw how they create peace in their community. CHALK4PEACE has been a tradition at Groveton since 2008, so today’s sixth graders have been participating since they were first graders. One sixth grader, Evelyn, drew a bowl of alphabet soup with the letters “Chalk 4 Peace” inside. She chose this design because, she says, her teacher asked them to “find things around the house every day to be peaceful,” and Evelyn feels that “when we’re cooking we’re all participating in something that’s quiet and peaceful.” From the many scenes of peaceful collaboration, it was clear that Groveton students had learned the day’s lesson.

Several other FCPS schools also participate in CHALK4PEACE. Eagle View ES has a long tradition of participating in CHALK4PEACE, and for the last three years, they have held the event on a Saturday, so that families can participate. Students prepare by learning about the event around the world, discussing peaceful works of art, and sketching their ideas, and then bring their families to create artwork together. This year the event was held on September 21, and over 300 people participated! Maybe your school could be the next site to promote peace through art. Check out the links or contact Groveton ES’s art teacher, Marielle Mariano, or Eagle View’s art teachers, Jessica Chin and Erin Haab, to find out more.

groveton studentsgroveton studentsgroveton studentsgroveton students

View Past Events

Service Learning Ideas

  • School wide "green" activities such as resource conservation and recycling
  • School or neighborhood cleanups
  • Food, clothing, book, bicycle, or toy drives
  • Peer tutoring
  • Peer mediation
  • Holiday greetings for the elderly or cards for hospital patients
  • Support for military service members and their families


About Service Learning

Service Learning Quick Info acrobat

Six Elements of Service Learning acrobat

Service Learning Regulation acrobat

Service Learning FAQs acrobat

Tips for Contacting Agencies

Verification Form acrobat

Photo Gallery


Laura Wells
Service Learning Resource Teacher

This web page contains links to one or more web pages that are outside the FCPS network. FCPS does not control the content or relevancy of these pages.

Webpage Curator

Rebecca Tenally

Last Updated

October 1, 2014