Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Create a Volunteer Spirit
Lesson 5
From Unit: This I Can Do!
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


This lesson emphasizes that volunteering is the responsibility of citizens. Those contributions made by volunteers represent positive social action for the good of the community. While written for a Catholic Elementary School, this lesson may be easily adapted for public school use.


One Hour Class Period and One Half-Hour Class Period


The learner will:

  • evaluate the importance of service to others.
  • identify ways that volunteers help others.

Service Experience:

Although this lesson contains a service project example, decisions about service plans and implementation should be made by students, as age appropriate.
Learn more about the stages of service-learning.

Plan and carry out a class volunteer project.


  • Volunteer Ideas Worksheet (Attachment One)
  • Helping Out is Cool by Ellen Feinman Moss (see Bibliographical References)
  • Research on Volunteering in America (Attachment Two)
Handout 1
Volunteer Ideas Worksheet
Handout 2
Research on Volunteering in America

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:
Have the class sing the song “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” in a three-part round to demonstrate the fun in working together. Discuss how it went. What made the singing experience successful? Was it fun to work it out together? Tell the students that they can have a fun experience volunteering their time or talents together. Build up a volunteering spirit and enthusiasm.

  • Ask students, “How many of you have ever volunteered your time to help somebody else? What does it mean to volunteer?” Define the word volunteer (someone who does a job or gives services freely and usually without pay). Tell students that you would like them to look around and think of needs at the school and in the community that could be addressed by a group volunteer project. Distribute the Volunteer Ideas Worksheet (Attachment One). Have students work with a partner to write down problems or needs they see around them.

  • Read some research on the amount of time and money people spend on volunteering. Also, read about the purposes for giving classified into different categories. This should not only inspire the students, but also convince them that giving is an important part of being a citizen. (See Research on Volunteering in America, Attachment Two.)

  • Have students write an essay, using examples based on research and experience, that describes how an individual can influence the lives of others through volunteering.


The Volunteer Ideas Worksheet (Attachment One) may be used as an assessment as well as the essay describing the value and impact of volunteers.

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

Environmental Science: Just as people depend upon each other for help, everything in nature is interconnected. Play a game from Project WILD, called “Habitat Lap Sit,” to demonstrate how we all depend on one another. Go to www.projectwild.org to get more information about this project.

Or write to them: Project WILD, P.O. Box 18060, Boulder, CO 80308-8060
Phone: (303) 444-2390; Fax: (303) 444-2391

Several other sites have adapted this activity from the Project Wild curriculum. You can search for "Habitat Lap Sit" to get an explanation of the activity.

Bibliographical References:

Lesson Developed By:

Valerie Williams
Catholic Diocese of Grand Rapids
St. Alphonsus Elementary School
Grand Rapids, MI 49505


Handout 1Print Handout 1

Volunteer Ideas Worksheet

Directions: Work with a partner and write down your ideas about problems or needs you have observed. Addressing one of these needs could become a volunteer project for the class.

Needs of kids at our school:

  1. ____________________________________________

  2. ____________________________________________

  3. ____________________________________________

Things that need to be done around school:

  1. _____________________________________________

  2. _____________________________________________

  3. _____________________________________________

Things that need to be done in our neighborhood:

  1. _____________________________________________

  2. _____________________________________________

  3. _____________________________________________

Things that need to be done in our community:

  1. _____________________________________________

  2. _____________________________________________

  3. _____________________________________________


Handout 2Print Handout 2

Research on Volunteering in America

There is a strong spirit of volunteering in America. Americans contribute more than a hundred billion dollars a year to charitable purposes. In addition to donating, tens of millions of Americans give time as volunteers in a variety of ways. People find the giving of their time, talent, and treasure to be a necessary part of being a caring citizen. Giving also just makes you feel good. Volunteers are people who care about others enough to set aside their own problems and take action.

Brian O’Connell is the former president of the Independent Sector, which is a national coalition for all voluntary nonprofit organizations. Mr. O’Connell classified the purposes of our giving and volunteering into nine categories:

  • To discover new frontiers of knowledge

  • To support and encourage excellence

  • To enable people to exercise their potential

  • To relieve human misery

  • To preserve and enhance democratic government and institutions

  • To make communities a better place to live

  • To nourish the spirit

  • To create tolerance, understanding, and peace among people

  • To remember the dead.

-from Philanthropy in Action, The Foundation Center, 1987

"How wonderful it is that nobody needs to wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."         Anne Frank

"You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. Sadly, too often creativity is smothered rather than nurtured. There has to be a climate in which new ways of thinking, perceiving, questioning are encouraged. People also have to feel needed. Frequently, we just offer a job and ‘perks.’ We don’t always offer people a purpose. When people feel there is a purpose and that they’re needed, there’s not much else to do except let them do the work."        Maya Angelou

Philanthropy Framework:


Ashley, Other – Ocala, FL3/16/2011 5:47:13 PM

Very nice lesson plan. I am in college for elementary eaducation, and I am always looking for new ideas. This is very simple yet creative. Awesome!

Debra, Other – Goldsboro, NC6/6/2013 9:50:05 AM

Great lesson! My team and I are working on a service-learning camp for young children to teach them about volunteering. This was the most amazing lesson, and it really kept the kids excited.

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Unit Contents:

Overview:This I Can Do! Summary


Stewardship and the Rainforest
Day in the Life of a Homeless Person (A)
Why Volunteer?
Create a Volunteer Spirit

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