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

Taking Care of the Earth
Lesson 3
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


Learners define stewardship and exhibit responsibility by helping to care for our “small world.” They will respond to the story The Earth and I by Frank Asch by creating watercolor illustrations of themselves acting as environmental stewards. They will decide on a class service project, plan, take action and reflect on their service experience.


One 45-Minute Session


The learner will:

  • create a watercolor picture of one example of taking care of the Earth.
  • brainstorm ideas for an Earth Day project.
  • define philanthropy as giving time, talent and treasure for the common good and recognize environmental stewardship as a philanthropic act.
  • plan, take action, reflect on an environmental service project.


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.

Take action to make sure we are good stewards of the resources we share globally. The following are some project ideas, but the facilitator should solicit ideas from youth:

  • Learn about local invasive species and how they affect the natural habitat. Organize a nature walk in which the students remove invasive species from public areas. They may also raise awareness with school families about what invasive species to watch for and avoid planting. 
  • Create a backyard or schoolyard wildlife habitat:
  • Establish recycling or composting in an area where people are still throwing away too much garbage. Raise awareness locally about using reusable water bottles rather than buying bottled water.
  • Produce a class presentation for other students in the school and or families/community member. Perform the Song "It's a Small World" and other songs about the environment and nature, display their watercolor pictures of being environmental stewards, and have students write a class story about why they think it's important to care for the environment.


  • common Good: what is best for all
  • service: contribution to the welfare of others
  • philanthropy: giving time, talent, and treasure and taking action for the common good
  • environmental stewardship: the responsible maintenance and care of the earth and its environment


  • A globe or map
  • The Earth and I by Frank Asch (Asch, Frank. The Earth And I. New York, NY: Scholastic, 1994: ISBN: 0-590-89752-7)
  • Watercolor paints and brushes
  • White paper appropriate for painting

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set

Refer to the globe and/or the pictures of earth from space. Ask the students what features they notice.  Point out amazing features of the Earth, such as mountains, oceans, and other landforms. Name some of the continents and countries and describe the different climates and beautiful regional characteristics. Tell the students that although we live in different places, do different things, and dress differently, we all have the Earth in common.

  • Ask: Whose responsibility is it to take care of the earth?  Challenge them to state why they asnswer as they do. 
  • Remind the students that the maintenance and care of the earth and its environment is called environmental stewardship.
  • Introduce the book The Earth and I by Frank Asch by saying that it is a book about environmental stewardship. The child in the story takes the reader on an exploration of what the Earth has to offer and how we can help preserve its resources. Ask them to listen for ideas about what they can do themselves to be environmental stewards as you read the book.
  • After reading the story, brainstorm with the group a list of ways the child in the story was able to help care for the Earth. Tell them that these are examples of stewardship of the Earth (planting, raking, picking up trash, etc.).
  • Define actions of service by using the word philanthropy as giving time, talent and treasure for the common good. Tell youth that an act of stewardship is an example of philanthropy. When they give their time to pick up trash or plant trees, they are doing it for the common good of everyone in the world.
  • Frank Asch used watercolor to create the illustrations in The Earth and I. Look back through the story and talk about the illustrations and techniques with the group. Provide watercolor paints. Ask the students to think about what they might be able to do to care for the Earth and to illustrate themselves taking care of the Earth. During the discussion, encourage students to think beyond picking up trash and planting flowers by asking open ended questions like: What could you and your family do to use less water, to let others know about being environmental stewards, to keep the water and air clean?
  • Help them write a sentence to describe the actions in their pictures. Allow time for learners to share their finished work with the group. The finished products (paintings with sentences) may be displayed in public areas at school and in the community.
  • List some of their ideas of stewardship on a display board.  Ask the students if they would like to do one of the ideas listed. Lead the class in coming to consensus on an environmental service project.
  • After planning and implementing a service project, with  students leading the decision making as appropriate to the grade level, use the "Reflection" activity in this lesson to help students identify the outcomes of the service for themselves and for the Earth. 

Youth Voice:

When youth offer their opinions and suggestions to the service projects, they are using their voice; an instrumental part of service-learning. Brainstorm ideas for a group project for Earth Day locally or globally.
Ask youth to think of activities that exhibit care for the Earth we share and demonstrate to others that stewardship of the Earth benefits everyone and is everyone’s responsibility.


Assess students on their participation in the class discussion including use of  the vocabulary words learned during the unit.  Assess their ability to explain their illustration and brainstorming actions that the class can take to enhance or preserve the environment.

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

Science: Create a compost pile and study the life cycle it presents.
Reading: Read Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg and reflect on how our actions affect our children’s future.
Math: On garbage collection day, walk around the immediate neighborhood and count the number of families/buildings that recycle and then the number of families/buildings that do not have recycle bins. Compare the numbers when you get back to the room.
Social Studies: Observe facts about the climates and environmental issues of locations around the world.

Learn about the history of Earth Day. Earth day is observed in the United States on April 22nd. It was founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson, and the first official demonstration was in the spring of 1970. Read about the origins of Earth Day at http://earthday.wilderness.org/history/.

Reflection: (click to view)

Bibliographical References:



Pictures of the Earth from Space http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view_rec.php?id=2429 

The Earth and I by Frank Asch (Asch, Frank. The Earth And I. New York, NY: Scholastic, 1994: ISBN: 0-590-89752-7)



Philanthropy Framework:

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Unit Contents:

Overview:Environment: Sustaining Our World (K-2) Summary


It Is a Small World
There Is So Much to Share
Taking Care of the Earth

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