Ms. Biggerstaff is a 4th grade teacher at Harrison Elementary School in Indiana.  “I feel that at this age and within this generation we see a decline in empathy and compassion,” said Ms. Biggerstaff. “I want to bring the needs of others to the attention of my students and show them that even at their age they can make a difference through their words and actions!” 

Using the lesson, "Phil"-ing Good, students were taught what philanthropy means. Ms. Biggerstaff paired the lesson with the book, A Chair for My Mother. “Students had lightbulb moments where they connected with the needs of the characters in the story,” said Ms. Biggerstaff. Using the lesson and the book, the class discussed how they could join forces with their time, talent, and treasure to fulfill the needs of others in their community, which led to their service-learning project Cancer Care Packages. 

Just over twenty 4th grade students researched appropriate items to include in care packages for patients undergoing chemo and radiation and coordinated with nurses and a local Cancer Care Center. They looked at the side effects of treatment and determined items that would put a smile on the faces of those patients. The nurses were tasked with distributing the care packages to the patients when they saw someone who could use some cheer and encouragement.  

"It made me feel thoughtful and helped me learn what cancer really means. It also made me appreciate more stuff that I had. I thought this was a real thoughtful thing to do for these people that are sick and in need,” one student reflected. 

The students demonstrated leadership through their research of the treatments and circumstances of patients to determine what should go in the packages. They even set up an assembly line to assemble the care packages.  

The Learning to Give mini-grant helped to empower the students with more choices, as they were able to purchase larger items that were more expensive but also more beneficial to the patients receiving them. 

“The awareness of those experiencing cancer grew significantly. It was amazing to read what the students wrote in their cards. They wanted to express encouragement and hope and it was touching to read!” Ms. Biggerstaff said. The three T's (time, talent, treasure) helped to shed light on how a group of 4th graders, even at this age, can use what they have and know to make someone else's situation better.  

One student said, "The cancer care packages really made me joyful even though I wasn't the one getting them. Giving was the part that made me feel joyful. I thought it was a great opportunity to spread kindness. At first I just saw it as a competition for pizza but as I learned more about it, I realized that It meant a lot them receiving our care packages."  

Ms. Biggerstaff incorporated discussions about the three T's through a month-long event where the students focus on the use of those three T's each week. In the future, she plans to continue this trend by challenging students each week to use their three T's towards a different person or group of people.