Bedtime Bags (K-12)

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

Young people 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. 
  • design a service project with advocacy and collecting items to donate. 
  • items and supplies for the bedtime bags, which may come from asking others to help

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

  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.”



  1. Adapt this one-period lesson plan for any grade level and follow it with a service project. 

  2. Anticipatory Set: Provide some background on the issue of housing costs being more than people can afford, which means many families including children are without a steady place to live. What are the stresses and daily difficulties? Watch 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 being without a home as told by a diverse group of children who have experienced it.

    For younger children, what challenges does someone face if they don't have a house to return to every day? What are the most important possessions a person might need? 

    For older students: Discuss respectful language that addresses the need instead of treating people like a charity. 

  3. In small groups, read aloud and discuss the meaning of one of the following quotes related to personal giving or service. What does it mean? Is it respectful? What can we do with people instead of for people?

    • "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. We can take action to help people by donating basic supplies or by advocating for better conditions. Define advocacy as acting, writing and/or speaking in favor of a cause.

    Brainstorm ideas related to gathering bedtime supplies for children who may not have a house to live in and use their voices to get help and advocate for kindness and change. 

  5. Service Project Overview: The youth hold a collection drive for items needed to put together “Bedtime Bags” for children in need in the community. They use social media to share their stories and requests.

    Suggested Procedure:

    • Invite a representative from a local nonprofit to talk to the class about families that are homeless and their needs, particularly around bedtime.
    • Youth ask the guest what items are needed, such as toothbrushes, books, music, pajamas, blankets, pillows, bedtime snacks, socks, and stuffed animals. 
    • They plan a collection drive and work out the details of what they collect, how they organize, and who they ask.
    • Youth 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.
    • The participants write notes or letters of encouragement to include in the bags.
    • They deliver the bedtime bags to the nonprofit that visited their school. 
    • The youth create a presentation to capture the impact of their project and share it on social media or in a community venue. They may include pictures, videos, 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.