Trail Mix Project
  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.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe one reason why a person might give or volunteer.
      2. Benchmark E.9 Give examples how people give time, talent or treasure in different cultures.

This lesson offers an opportunity for students to make a difference in their community regarding kids' hunger. Students give their time to make Trail Mix, which they donate to a local agency (such as Kids Food Basket in Grand Rapids, MI). Also, students represent collected data using a bar graph and practice communication and letter-writing skills as they reflect and write a letter describing the event of making Trail Mix.

PrintThree 30-45 Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • read and follow a simple recipe (with visual prompts for kindergarten).
  • measure ingredients.
  • work collaboratively and follow directions.
  • count by 10s.
  • use graphing skills to create a bar graph.
  • write a letter and communicate a summary and personal reflection.
  • define philanthropy and discuss reasons people give and serve in the community.

Materials for Trail Mix Project:(recipe for one tub, or 60 bags, of Trail Mix --multiply by the number of batches you want to make -- suggest 16 batches/class)

  • 3 lb. 4 oz. can of peanuts
  • 36 oz. bag of raisins or dried fruit
  • 16 oz. bag of mini-twist pretzels
  • 14 oz. box of cheese crackers
  • 20 oz. boxes of oat cereal (regular or whole grain)

Items needed for assembling and packaging:

  • 60+ zipperlocksandwich baggies for each batch
  • plastic gloves for each child (additional needed for tears and regloving if contaminated)
  • large mixing spoon for each team
  • large plastic tub for each team of five students (or a box with a plastic bag liner)
  • 8-10 oz. plastic cups for scooping (one package/class)
  • pencil and paper for each group (recorder collects data - writes how many baggies packed)

Materials for graphing and letter writing:

  • Handout Two: "Trail Mix Graph" for each student
  • color pencils
  • Handout One: "Parent Letter" for each student
Home Connection: 

Students will write a letter to parents explaining their accomplishements. In the letter, students need to use details from the three parts of the lesson: what students did during preparation of the Trail Mix Project what students did during the Trail Mix Project what students learned from their bar graphs


Danielle Alexander. The Girl in the Yellow Dress, Kids Food Basket, 2013.

(to order a book contact [email protected])

If this title is not available, here are some other choices to introduce empathy and hope for positively addressing the issue of hunger:

DeFelice, Cynthia. One Potato, Two Potato. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006 ISBN: 978-0374356408 

Hughes, Monica. A Handful of Seeds. Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1993 ISBN 978-1895555271

McBrier, Page. Beatrice's Goat. Aladdin, 2004 ISBN-13: 9780689869907

Brumbeau, Jeff. The Quiltmaker's Gift. Scholastic, Inc. 2001 ISBN-13: 9780439309103

  1. Anticipatory Set:

    The teacher calls students to come to a group. The teacher reads the book “The Girl in the Yellow Dress” by Danielle Alexander. (See Bibliographical References for this book or others with a similar theme.) As the teacher reads, students may ask questions, as needed for clarification. After the book is read the teacher asks the following questions:

    1. Have you ever felt hungry? What activities are hard to do when you are hungry? How do you feel when you are hungry?
    2. What else might families have to do without when there isn't enough money for food? (new clothes, toys, books, activities that cost money)
    3. What good things could people have even if they don't have enough money? (family, friends, kindness, time to share)
    4. How does it feel to know that anybody can do something to make sure that people aren't hungry? What could we do?
  2. After reading the book, the teacher explains to students they will be making Trail Mix to share with kids in the community who are hungry. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, for example, classes can donate their baggies of trail mix to Kids' Food Basket (KFB). KFB makes Sack Suppers for thousands of students to bring home from school each day.

  3. Share information about the local organization to which they will be donating the trail mix and how they get the healthy snack to kids. Explain that this nonprofit organization is in the business of helping others. Ask the students to name other local organizations that help others (library, humane society, environmental group, women's resource center). Ask, "Can anybody do something to help others by themselves or with a group? Even someone small, like them?"

  4. Discuss this quote, "If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito." -- Dalai Lama XIV

  5. Define philanthropist as someone who gives their time, talent, or treasure or takes action for the common good. Ask, "Are you a philanthropist?" Discuss the ways they can share their time, talent, or treasure in big and small ways and how it makes them feel when they do something kind or helpful.

  6. Explain the Trail Mix assembly line project planned for the next session and involve the students in some of the decision making and preparation, if desired. For example, have the students' families donate the ingredients or ask parents to help on the day of assembly. See Teacher Preparation for ideas for engaging student voice in the project.

  7. Day Two

  8. Note: Prior to this lesson, obtain the ingredients for the trail mix assembly (see Teacher Preparation). Set up an assembly line for each team with a plastic tub, a large spoon, plastic gloves, baggies, and ingredients.

  9. Write the recipe on the board and read it with the students (use labels on the ingredient list as a reading prompt, if desired): can of peanuts, bag of raisins, bag of pretzels, box of cheese crackers, and a box of oat cereal.

  10. Teacher moves students in groups of five students. Assign the students with roles to assemble the trail mix and package it into baggies.

  11. Each team will share responsibilities to mix the recipe ingredients into a tub and mix together well using a large spoon and gloved hands.

  12. For assembly, four students work in pairs, with one student scooping and the other student holding and sealing filled bags. To measure, the student fills the 8-10 oz. plastic cup to the top by dipping it into the tub of trail mix. One scoop per bag. The other student seals the bag and hands it to the fifth studentwhohas the role of recording the number of baggies packed. The recorder can use tally marks. This student makes sure the bags are tightly closed and placed in a large tub or box. Students continue filling, sealing and counting bags until all trail mix is packed. The number of bags filled is recorded on the tub or box.

  13. Day Three

  14. Students create a bar graph to represent the total number of bags packed.Give each student the handout of the blank Trail Mix graph. Teacher asks each team to report the number of bags they packed. Write these numbers on the board. Teacher may write numbers for each group using tally marks as well. Students can help count as teacher tallies. The students create a bar graph to visually represent the total number of bags packed by each team. Through discussion, students come up with labels for the title of the bar graph, as well as horizontal and vertical terms on the bar graph.

  15. Demonstrate how to color thebar graph to represent the data on the board, counting by tens and coloring in each bar using different colors for different groups.

  16. After most students finished their bar graph, the teachere asks questions about the data:

    1. How many bags did Team 1 pack?
    2. How many bags did Team 3 pack?
    3. How many more bags did Team 2 pack than Team 4? (depending which team packed more)
    4. How many fewer bags did Team 1 pack than Team 2? (depending which team packed less)
    5. How many bags did teams pack all together? (Have the students propose ways to come up with this total number, encouraging different methods and creativity and collaboration to solve.)
  17. Guide students to write a letter to their parents exlaining their Trail Mix Project, what they did, what they thought about it, and how they felt.

  18. Before students start writing, lead a discussion to collect ideas for writing from students. Write a list of ideas and vocabulary on the whiteboard for all students to see. Then, with student suggestions, teacher writes a letter on the whiteboard. As the sample letter is written, the teacher will remind students of parts of the letter: date, greeting, body, conclusion, closing, signature. This letter will stay on the whiteboard for students to look at while their write their own original letters. Each student will receive a Parent Letter handout to write a final copy of the letter to their parents.

  19. Note: the students may write a rough draft in their writing notebooks before writing a final copy on the Parent Letter handout.


Teacher will observe and evaluate students' responses and understanding during the group discussions. Teacher will evaluate bar graphs students created. Teacher will evaluate letters students write to parents.