Buck Institute for Education

Make a Difference

Author: Jeff Horwitz

What will my students be doing?

In the Make a Difference project, students create plans for one specific thing they can do in their community, in partnership with a relevant local organization.

What's Included:

  • Project Overview
  • 8 Essential Elements of PBL
  • Sequence of the Project
  • Step-By-Step Teaching Guide
  • Student Handouts
  • Teacher Materials

Current Version: January 10, 2018

Second graders are ready to conquer the world—and they can start with their community.

In Make a Difference: Civic Responsibility, elementary school students partner with local organizations to fill a real need, help a specific population, engage in public service, and make a tangible difference in their neighborhoods and beyond. Students create plans for one specific thing they can do in their community. They implement the solutions with a partnering organization and track its effect by collecting meaningful data. Finally, students analyze their impact on the community and display their work at a public showcase where parents, teachers, other students, community members, and even project beneficiaries are invited to witness and appreciate their civic contributions.

Successful past projects include collecting food for the homeless, toys for sick children, supplies for victims of natural disasters, and creating posters, videos, or other promotional materials for an environmental clean-up, animal adoption event, or anti-smoking campaign.

Project Notes

  • Subjects: ELA, Math, Social Studies
  • Grade Level: 2nd
  • Common Core Aligned
  • Time Required: 15-30 Hours

Sponsored By


"The second grade curriculum is centered around community and focuses on answering the question, 'What brings people together?' Our school's mission is to focus on living lives of service and purpose. Those two factors inspired me to create a unit that gave students an opportunity to make a difference in their community, because members of a community take care of their community. Each year it is inspiring and overwhelming to see the contributions 7 and 8 year olds make to their community. It is continually inspiring to hear students say, 'I didn’t know I could do something like this!'" --Jeff Horwitz, Chesterfield Day School, Chesterfield, Missouri

Student Work

MICDS Civic Responsibility Res
See what the students had to say about the project visit »

Project Documents

Project Author

Jeff comes to Chesterfield Day School by way of MICDS where, for the last six years, he taught 2nd grade.  During his 11 year teaching career he has taught in both public and private schools and in grades K-3.  He is a graduate of St. Louis University and Webster University.  He is well-known as a teacher for his curricular work, best practice teaching models, and positive relationships with parents and students. Jeff has a passion for curricular development and student services, the two key aspects of the Director of Academics and Student Services position. 

In his free time, Jeff enjoys playing golf and playing music with his friends.