Bedtime Bags (K-12)

PreK, K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

In this one period lesson, students learn about people and children who are homeless and make bedtime bags for children in shelters as their service project. 

"I always wondered why somebody doesn't do something about that. Then I realized I was somebody."  - Lily Tomlin

Photo Credit: Homeless by Hanibaael is licensed under CC by 4.0 

PrintOne class period, plus time for a project

The learners will:

  • discuss causes and issues related to homelessness. 
  • read quotes on philanthropy and reflect on the concept. 
  • use social media to encourage people to help make a difference for people who are homeless. 
  • copy of the PowerPoint slide show to facilitate this lesson (below)
  • YouTube clip from Pursuit of Happyness film
  • Fly Away Home book by Eve Bunting
  • items and supplies for the bedtime bags, which may come from asking others to help
Teacher Preparation 

Use the attached PowerPoint to guide classroom discussion.


advocacy: the act or process of writing or speaking in favor of, or supporting, a cause

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.


  1. Discuss the impact of their project on the recipients and themselves.
  2. Students write a reflection or create a slideshow to share to encourage others to “pay it forward.”
  3. Share the reflections with Learning to Give and a national audience.  The TeachOne initiative connects teachers across the country with others who completed this project.
  4. Use social media on #GivingTuesday to enhance their project with #Teach1 #LTGChat #GivingTuesday

Follow-up: Discuss what they’d like to do next to continue in their community.


  1. Adapt this one-period lesson plan for any grade level and follow it with a simple and powerful service project on Giving Tuesday. The reflection brings learning and service impact together. 

  2. Anticipatory Set: (10 minutes) Discuss and build empathy for children who are homeless. What are the stresses and daily difficulties? 

    Younger students:  Read the book Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting. The book is about a homeless boy who lives in an airport with his father, moving from terminal to terminal trying not to be noticed. They are given hope when a trapped bird finally finds its freedom.

    Middle to high school:  Show the following scene from Pursuit of Happyness.


    • Suppose you did not have a home and place to keep your things. What are your most important possessions you would want to keep with you? Discuss how it would feel to be homeless. What would you do to stay safe? What problems would you face?
    • Discuss the ways the boy and his Dad found places to sleep. Ask, “Why do you think it is especially hard for families who are homeless? Can you think of another place they could stay?”
  3. Part One: (10 minutes) Give students time in small groups to read aloud and discuss the meaning of the following quotes. Choose a handful of quotes that are age appropriate.

    • "Never look down on someone unless you are helping them up."
    • "I always wondered why somebody didn't do something about that, then I realized I am somebody."
    • "Who are we as human beings if we ignore the suffering of others?"
    • "Your job is not to judge. Your job is not to figure out if someone deserves something. Your job is to lift the fallen, to restore the broken, and to heal the hurting."
    • "In the world where you can be anything, be kind."
    • "People often forget that kindness is free."
  4. Variation for older students:  Working in small groups, students identify the common theme among the quotes listed (possibly “responsibility”). They may come up with a mission statement describing their civic responsibility to others in the community.

    Variation for younger students:  Working in small groups, students identify different ways they can show kindness to others. How are they already showing kindness to others, including family, friends, and people they do not know?

  5. Part Two: (10 minutes) Define advocacy and introduce #GivingTuesday

    Define advocacy as acting, writing and/or speaking in favor of a cause. As an example, view this video that builds empathy and shares facts. While this 60 Minutes piece dates from 2011 and some job numbers have improved, it is a "timeless" story of homelessness as told by a diverse group of children who have experienced it. Tell students to listen for what people might be able to do in response.  It is suggested that you watch at least the first 7 minutes.

    • After watching, discuss the message of the video. What do they feel and want to do after watching? Call attention to the fact that there is not a direct "call to action" for the viewer. Effective advocacy shares facts, engages emotions, and askes people to take action. 
    • Tell the students that they are going to plan an action related to asking people to help gather bedtime supplies for homeless children.
    • Tell the students about #GivingTuesday, a day of giving that is fueled by social media and communication about what people care about. Share the website.
  6. Service Project

    This service project may be started in class and completed in subsequent days, either with the class or with friends and family.

    Project Overview: Students tell others about homeless children and hold a collection drive for items needed to put together “Bedtime Bags” for children in need in the community. They use social media building up to and on #GivingTuesday.


    • Invite a representative from a local nonprofit to talk to the class about families that are homeless and their needs, particularly around bedtime.
    • Students ask the guest what items are needed, such as toothbrush, books, music, pajamas, blankets, pillow, bedtime snack, socks, stuffed animal. 
    • The students plan a collection drive with an end date around GivingTuesday. 
    • Students create signs, social media messages, and letters telling others about the needed items. They post their messages in their family and community networks. 
    • Collect “bedtime items” needed for children in the local shelters.
    • They may use recycled bags, decorated boxes, or sew homemade bags to hold the donated items.
    • Students write notes or letters of encouragement to include in the bags.
    • After GivingTuesday, the students deliver the bedtime bags to the nonprofit that visited their school. 
    • Students create a presentation to capture the impact of their project and share it on social media and at a school family night. They may include pictures, video, interviews, a narrative of people’s reactions, or a blog.
Cross Curriculum 

Read about the service-learning project called Break Bags by South Newton High School students who were taught using this Bedtime Bags lesson to guide student learning and action.

Mr. Keller is a teacher and Ms. Robbins is a Guidance Counselor at South Newton High School in Indiana. Together they said they “value service in our community. We want our community to be the best it can be, and the only way for us to reach that is by teaching our students the value of pride and caring for it.”

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.1 Explore and research issues and present solutions using communication tools.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Analyze information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to the common good.
      3. Benchmark MS.1 Identify and research public or social issues in the community, nation or the world related to the common good. Form an opinion, and develop and present a persuasive argument using communication tools.
      4. Benchmark MS.4 Analyze information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to the common good.
      5. Benchmark HS.1 Utilize the persuasive power of written or oral communication as an instrument of change in the community, nation or the world.
      6. Benchmark HS.4 Analyze and synthesize information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to public policy. Discuss these issues evaluating the effects of individual actions on other people, the rule of law and ethical behavior.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.5 Describe the responsibility students have to act in the civil society sector to improve the common good.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe the task and the student role.
      2. Benchmark MS.3 Describe the task and the student role.
      3. Benchmark HS.3 Describe the task and the student role.
    2. Standard VS 04. Raising Private Resources
      1. Benchmark E.4 Set a fund-raising goal and identify sources of private funds.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Set a fund-raising goal and identify sources of private funds.
      3. Benchmark HS.4 Set a fund-raising goal and identify sources of private funds.
    3. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark E.3 Identify outcomes from the service.
      2. Benchmark MS.3 Identify outcomes from the service.
      3. Benchmark HS.3 Identify outcomes from the service.