Sharing our Talents
  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.4 Analyze information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to the common good.

A children's book provides an example of giving one’s talents (philanthropy) in Native American culture. They will analyze their own special gifts or talents and determine how the community can benefit from them.

Focus Question: How can we use our talents to benefit the common good?

PrintOne Forty-Five Minute Class Period (Fifteen Minute Class Period for the optional Extension)

The learner will:

  • define “talent.”
  • review the definition of philanthropist (giving of one’s time, talent and treasure).
  • explain how a talent can be used to help others.
  • illustrate his/her own special gift or talent.
  • The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie dePaola (see Bibliographical References)
  • Brown craft paper or a brown paper shopping bag cut to resemble a piece of paper
  • Tempera paint
  • White glue and Sand (colored or uncolored) – if the optional Extension is done
  • Paint brushes (various sizes)
  • Paint cups or trays
  • Water cups
  • Paper towels
  • Paint shirts
  • Word processor, printer and paper
  • Chalk board or large paper
  • dePaola, Tomie.  The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush.  New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1996.  ISBN: 0698113608.
  • International Child Art Foundation. accessed 1.21.2011

  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Write the word “talent” on the board or large paper. Ask the students what it means (the gift or special ability of a person). Ask the students what “gift” means (the talent or special ability of a person). Explain that the word “gift” can sometimes be another word for talent.

  2. Introduce The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush (See Bibliographic Reference). Tell the class that the story is about a Native American boy, Little Gopher, who has a special “gift” or “talent” that he shares with his “People.” Explain that it is often the custom of Native Americans to refer to themselves as “the People” as they will hear in this story.

  3. Set a listening purpose: Have children listen to the story to find out how the boy shares his special “gift” or “talent” with his people. (He paints pictures of great hunts, of great deeds, of great Dream-Visions so that the people will always remember.)

  4. Read the story to the students. During the story, stop and check for understanding of “path,” (Little Gopher’s direction in life – the path he will follow), “Dream-Vision,” “shaman” (wise one) and “longed” (wished to be a hunter).

  5. Lead a discussion of the following questions:

    • How was the boy different from the other children? (He couldn’t run and keep up with the other boys.)
    • What did the shaman tell the boy? (His path would not be the same as the other boys. He had a special gift.)
    • What did Little Gopher learn in his Dream-Vision? (He would paint pictures that his people would remember forever.)
    • What did the pictures that he painted do for his people? (It gave them a picture of their history.)
    • What was his special gift to his people? (His pictures that he painted of the great deeds and great hunts.)
  6. Conclude that we all have talents that we can share and use to help others. When we give or share our time, talent, or treasure for others (for the common good) this is known as “philanthropy.” Ask each student to think of a special talent he or she has. Allow students to share these with the class.

  7. Tell the students that they will be painting a picture of an act of kindness that they have done or observed being done in the school/community. Gather ideas from the students and create a list of acts so that they will have something to choose from if they can’t come up with something of their own (helping another student, picking paper off the floor, sharing a book with a classmate, etc.). These pictures will be displayed for the rest of the school to see.

  8. Creating the paintings:

    • Have students write their name on one side of the brown paper.
    • Students should crumple the brown paper into a ball and then open it out, flattening it to the best of their ability. This is to simulate animal hide.
    • Distribute paint shirts, paintbrushes, water cups and paint. (Instruct students not to dip their brush in a new color without rinsing it first. You may choose to have only one or two brushes per color to avoid confusion).
    • Students should then create a painting of their talent, using detail.
    • Set aside to dry

Teacher observation of appropriate student participation in the discussions. Student followed directions and completed talent painting at their own level.


Reflection plays a very important role in promoting student learning. The following suggested activities are ways to help students reflect on their learning after they have participated in a service event.  Choose one or more of the activities most appropriate to the service event and your students.

Provide the students with one of four different flower cut-outs of various colors.  Have the students write, or tell you what to write, on each of their flowers that indicate what they did during the service project.  When each student has something written on their flower, display all the flowers placing them in a reflection “garden” entitled “Planting Helping Seeds”, “Helping Blossoms,” “Fun Flowers”, etc. When all the flowers have been "planted in the garden" read to the class what is written on each flower. Draw a comparison between flowers making the world more beautiful and their caring deeds making the world more beautiful.

Provide students with a cutout outline of a fish.  Have the students color their fish and then draw a face on their fish that represents how they personally felt when they were helping during the service-learning activity.  In turn, have each of the students share the feeling that their “fish-face” represents.  As the students share their “fish face” have them place their fish on a display entitled “Sea of Feelings”, “Fish Face Tank,” School of Fish”, or etc.  Ask the students to conclude what the majority of all the fish are ‘feeling’ and why others might be ‘feeling’ differently. Draw a comparison between how fish seem to like ‘schooling together’ to do things and the class coming together to do things like the service project.

Have each student bring their favorite doll, or stuffed animal to class.  (NOTE: Be sure to have a few extra of these items on hand in the classroom for use by students who forget or cannot bring an item.)  Ask the students to share their feelings about their doll or stuffed animal. Remind them of the service project and ask them to share how they felt about being involved in the event. Help them to see that the feelings they have for their favorite doll or stuffed animal are in some ways alike and in some ways different from their feelings about being involved in the service project, but they are alike because these are all “feel good” feelings.

Assign each student a partner.  Have them stand back to back.  While in this position, ask the students to take turns sharing with their partner their responses to the prompt, “What did you do during the service project?” After each student has had a chance to share with his or her partner, still in the back-to-back position, ask them to share their responses to a second prompt, “Do you think what you did made a difference?”  After an appropriate amount of time, have the partners face each other and respond to the prompt.  “How do you feel now that the event is over?” After returning to their seats, ask the students which way of sharing with each other was easier and why.  (Note: depending on the maturity of the group, explain that many times it’s easier and more helpful if we “face” people and situations rather than ‘turn our backs on them.’)