Bridging the Gap by Doing Philanthropy

6, 7, 8

Students will engage in a service learning activity, write about it in a journal, an essay and an observation report, and complete a project summarizing their experience. While written for a Christian Middle School, the lesson may be easily adapted for public school use.

Lesson Rating 
PrintEleven to Thirteen Forty-Five Minute Class Periods (approximately once a week for a period of 10 weeks)

The learnerwill:

  • keep a journal over an extended period of time.
  • write a one-page observation essay.
  • produce a final project that relates to their individual experiences in the service learning activity.
  • describe their experiences and evaluate them in a five-paragraph essay.
  • interact with other students during discussion by sharing statements from their journals.
  • discuss the theme of a poem as it relates to a service learning activity.
  • A journal for each student
  • Video tapes and a video camera (optional)
  • Teacher's Pre-Activity Planning Guide (Attachment One)
  • Journal Entry Requirements (Attachment Two)
  • Writing Conference Form (Attachment Three)
  • Nursing Home Projects (Attachment Four)
  • Reflection Essay (Attachment Five)
  • Reflection Essay Assessment Rubric (Attachment Six)
  • Journal Assessment Rubric (Attachment Seven)
  • Observation Report Assessment Rubric (Attachment Eight)
  • Project Assessment Rubric (Attachment Nine)
  • Kinsley, Carol and Kate McPherson. Enriching the Curriculum Through Service Learning. Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1995.
  • Rief, Linda. Seeking Diversity. Portsmouth: Heinemann Educational Books, 1992.
  • Sebranek, Patrick, et al. Write Source 2000. Wisconsin: Write Source Educational Publishing House, 1993.


  1. Anticipatory Set:Ask students to close their eyes and form a mental picture of whatever comes to their minds when they hear the term “nursing home.” With their eyes still closed, ask them to make a “thumbs up” sign if the image is a positive one. If the image is a negative one, have them make a “thumbs down” sign. While their hands are still in this position, tell students to open their eyes and look at what the class perception of nursing homes happens to be.


    Week One:

  2. Announce to the class that during the next card-marking period students will be involved in an academic-based service-learning experience at a nursing home. The students will keep journals related to their weekly experience at the nursing home and these journals will be turned in at the end of the marking period. The writing will include polished pieces as well as unpolished pieces and be evaluated. Give each student a duo-tang folder with pockets. Add twenty sheets of notebook paper. This is the journal which students will keep, related to their experiences at the nursing home. Appropriate pictures may be drawn on the outside of the folder. Pictures and words on the folder should relate to the experience and/or the theme of philanthropy. Instruct the students to date each journal entry, beginning with the date of this lesson. Give each student a copy of Journal Entry Requirements (see Attachment Two).

  3. Begin the journal by having students free-write for five to seven minutes. Students should write down everything they know about nursing homes. Have students share what they wrote in groups of three or four. They should add to their own entry anything they learned from other students in their group. Bring the class back to a whole group format and discuss the information they shared and why they had their thumbs “up” or “down” in the initial activity.

  4. Ask if any students can share a story about times when they visited a nursing home. If possible, ask the students to recall the name of the nursing home, why he/she went to the nursing home, who was visited, who went with him/her, why the person visited was in the nursing home, and describe the experience using three adjectives. Have students add the new information to their journals.

  5. Read several scripture passages with the students and discuss why a Christian should visit a nursing home and care for the elderly. Discuss Jesus' example of caring for others and answer the following question during class discussion: "What would Jesus do for the elderly?" Possible passages include:

    • Leviticus 19:32
    • Proverbs 14:21, 31
    • Luke 6:31-36
    • Matthew 25:36
    • Galatians 5:6b
    • Corinthians 13
    • Mark 10:43-45
  6. If it has not already been done, this is a good time to have the principal and nursing home representative discuss the upcoming project (see Attachment One: Teacher's Pre-Activity Planning Guide). Explain the details and expectations of the academic service-learning project. Hand out the scheduling options. Send the scheduling handout and parent letter home with the students. Ask the students to return the scheduling handout within three days. Tell students that the schedules will be numbered in the order they are returned and scheduling will begin with number one.

  7. End the class by pointing out that this opportunity will help students act on what they believe is an important part of Christian living - serving others. They are beginning to fulfill the mission statement of their school. Since Jesus no longer lives on earth, they are to do His work in the world. Close the class by reading Matthew 25:31-46. (This could become the scriptural passage for the project.)

  8. Assignment: Have students write the following question in their journals: "Why should I care about helping the elderly?" Ask students to write an answer that shows some deep thinking and reflects the class discussion. The reflection should be at least five sentences long.


    Week Two:

    Note-All lessons from this point will be held at the end of the week after all students have been to the nursing home during that week.

  10. Instruct students at the beginning of the week to make notes in their journals about what they did the first day at the nursing home. This page should be dated and labeled with a title (possible title: “Bridging the Gap” or “Serving Others”).

  11. At the beginning of the first class after all students have reported to the nursing home, provide time for individual students to relate orally what they experienced during their first visit. Students should refer to the notes in their journals. Give students 10 to 15 minutes to write two paragraphs, written in the first person. The first paragraph should contain an orderly account of what he/she did the first day. The second paragraph should be the student's reaction to this experience. This paragraph could include answers to the following questions:

    • What did you like about your first day?
    • What didn’t you like?
    • What did you notice about life in a nursing home?
    • What do you look forward to doing during your next visit?
  12. Assignment: Students will write an observation report on a patient or employee at the nursing home whom they will see over a period of time. Students should include the following details in their journals:

    • who is the person being observed
    • reasons for selecting this person
    • activities of the person being observed
    • information about this person's surroundings or environment
    • any interactions, if any, the student has with the person being observed
  13. There is no need to interview the person. Students should be keen observers and carefully notice details to include in their notes. Some suggestions for notes can include:

    • For an employee:
      • the work being done
      • the importance of the work
      • the person’s attitude
      • how often the job needs to be done
      • how it benefits the residents
  14. For a resident:

    • the room the resident lives in
    • the resident's attitude
    • what the resident can or cannot do
    • what the resident is doing
  15. Week Three:

  16. Have students work in partners to discuss their observation notes. Each student should suggest three ideas that would improve their partner's report and write these suggestions in their partner's journal. Suggestions might include: "show" as well as tell the reader what you observe by…

    • including a description of the setting
    • describing the person
    • including sensory details that create a picture for the reader such as sounds, smells, colors, etc.
    • including the writer's own thoughts or opinions about his or her observations
    • listing actions that occurred
    • including a quote
  17. Hold a class discussion, putting everyone's ideas on the board. Have students decide what they will observe carefully during their next visit to the nursing home to improve the written observation. Students should record at least two additional ideas in their journals.

  18. Assignment: Continue observation notes. This will be the last week to record information.


    Week Four:

  20. Give students time in class to write a rough draft of their observation report.


    Week Five:

  22. Give each student a copy of Writing Conference Form (see Attachment Three). Tell students to place their sheet in their own journals. Put students in groups of three, have them exchange rough drafts and proofread each other's drafts. Each student should complete the Writing Conference Form for two reports other than his/her own.

  23. Have each student work on correcting his/her own drafts. Final copies, neatly written in the journal, are due next week.

  24. Have students write a half-page journal entry reflecting on their experience at the nursing home up to this point. Students should answer one or more of the following questions:

    • How is the work I am doing helping someone?
    • Why is it important for me to help others in this way?
    • How is the work I am doing affecting me?
    • How am I helping my community?
  25. Assignment: Ask students to have a parent complete the Writing Conference Form for their observation report. Students should then make final revisions, write a final draft of the observation report and finish the journal entry if it was not completed in class.


    Week Six:

  27. Hand out options for a final project (see Attachment Four: Nursing Home Projects). Inform students that they will be writing a plan in their journals for the project. This plan should include the project they chose, with whom they will be working, and exactly what they will be doing to complete the requirements of the project. Every week until the project is due they will write a half to one page progress report in their journals.

  28. Read the poem Not in Vain by Emily Dickinson to the students:

  29. If I can stop one heart from breaking,I shall not live in vain:If I can ease one life the aching,Or cool one pain,Or help one fainting robinUnto his nest again,I shall not live in vain.

  30. Discuss the poem in relation to the nursing home experience.

  31. Two or three days later: Give the students five to ten minutes to write their final project plan in their journals. This gives them time to decide on a project and how they will complete it.

  32. Weeks Seven through Nine:


  33. Give students five to ten minutes to write a progress report in their journals on the following question: "What have I done this week for my project?" Give students the opportunity to ask questions and voice problems or concerns with their projects. Allow an extra five to ten minutes for writing a plan or list of what should be accomplished on the project in the next week. Allow time for students to work on their projects in class.

  34. Note: By week nine students will no longer be going to the nursing home unless they choose to continue to do so on their own time.

  35. Assignment: Complete the project. Set due date.

  36. Week Ten:


  37. Have students display their projects for the class.

  38. Close by reading Matthew 25:31-46.


Students will write a five-paragraph essay that is a reflection of their experiences. See Reflection Essay (Attachment Five) and Reflection Essay Assessment Rubric (Attachment Six). Students will turn in the completed journal. See Journal Assessment Rubric (Attachment Seven). Students will turn in an observation report. See Observation Report Assessment Rubric (Attachment Eight). Students will complete one project individually or with a group of students. See Project Assessment Rubric (Attachment Nine).

Cross Curriculum 

The students will be involved in various activities at a nursing home in the community.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Provide a needed service.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Describe the goals of the project and their impact.
      3. Benchmark MS.3 Describe the task and the student role.
      4. Benchmark MS.4 Demonstrate the skills needed for the successful performance of the volunteer job.