Small Actions with Big Purpose

6, 7, 8

In this lesson, students choose two causes or issues from a list of twelve causes or issues that they feel most concerned about. With those in mind, they explore how perseverance and doing their personal best are the most effective ways to address needs rather than looking at the short term or doing nothing.

PrintOne 20-minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • select two causes by drawing dots on signs posted around the room.
  • discuss the impact of a few people on big causes and needs.
  • twelve sheets of paper (recycled is fine)
  • one marker for each student
Teacher Preparation 

Before students arrive, prepare small signs to place around the room. On twelve pieces of paper (use the backs of paper from the recycle bin) write the following causes or issues that people may feel passionate about (one issue in large print on each paper): Hunger, Animal Welfare, Safe Places for Kids, Homelessness, Drug or Alcohol Abuse, Endangered Animals, Natural Disasters, Diseases or Health Concerns, Discrimination or Civil Rights, Education, Global Warming, Slavery

Write the following directions on the board: "Read the twelve different causes or issues concerning our community or world posted around the room. Choose the two issues that you feel most concerned about. Color a dot beside two issues you think you could contribute your time, talent, or treasure to help address."


  1. Note: Before students arrive, hang up the prepared signs around the room and set out colored markers. Write directions on the board. See Teacher Preparation above.

    Anticipatory Set:

    As students enter the room, have them choose a colored marker and read the directions written on the board. Give them five minutes to walk by the twelve signs posted around the room and mark two signs each.

  2. Signal students to return to their seats and have them look around at the issues chosen as indicated by the dots on the signs. To spark discussion, ask the students what they observe.

  3. Ask, "Why didn't everybody choose the same issues?"Lead the students to a discussion of personal interests as motivation for doing personal best in addressing a need for the common good.

  4. Ask "What can we few people do about such big issues?" Lead them to recognize that they can focus on a small area and persevere to make a difference in long-term goals (like water drops forming the Grand Canyon). If the students get into a discussion of barriers, ask them how the group could persevere to overcome obstacles and address one or more of these issues.

  5. Have the group choose two to four issues to focus on based on the issues with the most dots on the signs. Discuss how a small group could address the issues locally using their time, talent, and resources and their personal best efforts. Discuss what doing personal best in these efforts would look like.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define and give examples of the motivations for giving and serving.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities and research.
    3. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Demonstrate the skills needed for the successful performance of the volunteer job.