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school volunteeringNot up for a PTA position or class mom role? We hear you. Many volunteer opportunities seem like they require more time than your busy schedule allows. But you can still give back to your child’s school. “It’s okay to contribute in smaller, unique ways that fit your availability and personality,” says Sarah Barrett, a mother of two and author of A Mom’s Guide to School Fundraising. “Teachers need the help, plus it sets a good example to your kids about the importance of giving back.” Here, five of our favorite ideas:

1. BUILD A BULLETIN BOARD

Ask your child’s teacher if you can help create or cut out decorations for the classroom, suggests Jenny Friedman, Ph.D., founder and executive director of the family volunteering nonprofit Doing Good Together. “I call these ‘kitchen table projects,’ ” she says. “They’re great for working parents because they can be done after hours—plus your kids can even pitch in!” Along the same lines, Barrett says a father at her daughter’s school makes uplifting signs to hang in the hallways during testing weeks.

2. SPRUCE UP THE OUTDOORS

Everyone appreciates it when the school grounds look great, and often several families can tackle these projects together on a weekend. Andy Weisser was turned off by the lack of trees at his child’s Los Angeles elementary school, so he got together with other parents to plant some. Their idea has since expanded into an annual planting day that draws more than 100 volunteers.

3. CREATE A LUNCH CLUB

Natalie Blais, a mom and an avid crafter in Alberta, Canada, noticed a need for more art-related clubs at her son’s school. So she started teaching about 30 students a week how to turn recycled paper scraps into greeting cards for family and friends. The set time, once a week during the kids’ lunch period, al– lows her to balance volunteering with a busy work schedule. She says the key is to focus the club on a subject you enjoy: “When you are able to volunteer doing what you love to do, it becomes so much easier to find the time and create the space in your life for it.”

4. REDUCE WASTE

If you’ve ever volunteered in your child’s cafeteria, you know that a lot of food ends up in those big trash barrels. When Tara Fisher-Munoz, a parent volunteer at Wells Branch Elementary in Travis County, Texas, was bothered by this at her school, she worked with the district to implement composting in the lunchroom. Not sure your town would be on board? Offer to buy the bins and signage, then recruit a few parents who can rotate picking up the waste and adding it to their personal composting piles.

5. HELP KIDS GIVE BACK

Beyond helping the school itself, teachers are always looking for projects that allow students to grow, learn, and develop compassion. With that goal in mind, Angel Zobel-Rodriguez and her then 9-year-old daughter started a hair donation drive at her Granada Hills, California, elementary school. Local hairdressers donate their time to come to the school and cut the kids’ hair. Then the ponytails are shipped off to charities that have them made into wigs for children and adults who have lost their hair due to cancer or another medical diagnosis. A hair drive is particularly powerful for kids because they’re giving something of their own, not asking their parents for money. “It helps kids understand childhood illness and people with differences,” says Zobel-Rodriguez—“and that there are small ways people can help.”

How do you contribute to your child’s school? Share your stories with us below.

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