Filling a Bowl

K, 1, 2

This interdisciplinary unit involves working with staff to plan an evening fundraising meal and with the art teacher to create clay bowls. There are many "empty bowls" within a community, and students get involved in planning and advertising for a dinner to fill them for one night. This lesson does not include specifics on the art lesson or the dinner plan (which will be unique to each school), but engages students in empathy and advocating for the fundraiser.  Teacher will also be responsible for funding the dinner by asking for donations from local business partners (grocery stores etc.) and writing grants to fund the project.  The timeline of preparation is several months before the dinner.  The lesson can be introduced early in the planning stages to get the kids excited about the project.

PrintOne 30-Minute Class Period, Two 30-Minute Art Class Periods, and a 2-hour dinner open house

The learner will:

  • explore hunger in their own community.
  • volunteer time and talent by creating a ceramic bowl available for a donation.
  • illustrate a poster advertising for the event.
  • give examples of ways they can help the community.

Examples of materials needed for this lesson:

  • clay for the bowls
  • glaze of several different colors
  • plastic or Styrofoam bowls used to shape the bowls and dry the bowls
  • kiln (often located in a high school or middle school setting)
  • large 11x17 paper for posters
  • markers and crayons
  • paintbrushes

Materials for Empty Bowls Dinner

  • pasta (by the pound, depending upon how many are in attendance for dinner)
  • RSVP invitations for dinner. Make sure to include a number count area for how many will be eating)
  • tomato sauce
  • parmesan cheese
  • bread or dinner rolls
  • butter
  • plastic or Styrofoam bowls
  • forks
  • bottled water
  • small paper plates for desserts
  • dessert (purchased, donated, or made by teachers and staff)
  • designated kitchen area with cookware, stove, refrigorator, holding table)
  • large gallon sized zipper bags to hold pre-boiled pasta
  • salt and pepper (optional)
  • brochures listing dinner event participants, community partners, and background information on the project
Teacher Preparation 

The teachers in the building work together to plan a pasta dinner fundraiser to raise awareness about hunger. They may seek fundraising to pay for dinner ingredients or ask for donations from local businesses. The teachers tell the students about the dinner and working with the art teacher and the symbolism of the empty bowls.


volunteer: giving time to help others or to do a job without pay

service: providing a need to others or an organization

fundraising: raising funds for a local group, cause, or charity

Home Connection 

Students will be given an RSVP, developed by the classroom teacher, to be sent home explaining the Empty Bowls project and dinner. There will be a spot for number attending the dinner so an accurate count can be identified.


Rogers, Fred. The Giving Box November 2000. ISBN: 0762408251



    Anticipatory Set:

    In preparation to holding the Empty Bowls dinner, review with your students the ideas and concepts in the previous lesson (i.e. hunger, scarcity, volunteer, food pantry). Show students an empty bowl. Show students a bowl full of good things to eat. Ask students which bowl they would rather have. Tell students that an empty bowl is like an empty stomach and we are going fill this bowl and the stomachs of hungry children by having a pasta supper fundraiser. Introduce the word philanthropy. Write the word across the board. Explain to students that this big word also has a big meaning. "Philanthropy means giving your time, talent, or treasure to help others." Read fables from The Giving Box. (See Bibliographical References.)

  2. After reading, have students list some ways they can "give" to others. The teacher may refer to the previous lesson of donating/giving food items to the local non-profit. What are some other things we can give?

  3. Students will draw a picture on a 3x5 index card of something they can give to someone else (a toy, food, clothing they have outgrown, flowers, etc.).

  4. After students have drawn and labeled their picture, they will share their idea with their table group or whole class. Teacher will then help students connect the picture index card together to make a giving quilt. The quilt can be displayed in the classroom or school.

  5. Tell students they will be creating a clay bowl in art class to sell at a school-wide pasta dinner. After the bowl has been dried and fired in a kiln, they will get to paint their bowl. The bowl will go in the kiln again. All their bowls will be sold to families at the dinner. The money collected from the bowls will be donated to a local nonprofit, such as Kids' Food Basket.

  6. Day 2:

  7. In the classroom, students prepare for the Empty Bowls event by designing a poster advertising for the dinner. As a group, write some words and draw some images associated with bowls, hunger, philanthropy, and giving so students have something to reference. Model how to use the entire space of the poster, including the background. (Students have the tendancy to draw and write small.)

  8. Use some of the following prompts to motivate students to create posters with strong images and messages:"To get ready for our big community dinner, we have to tell people about it! You will each design a poster to tell your families about the dinner and its purpose. Can you think of some pictures that might be good to draw on our posters? How might we fill the empty bowls/empty stomachs? Should we use a lot of colors or just a few? Make sure to draw your picture nice and big so that people can see them from far away. Also, you want to do your personal best because we will choose one poster to be copied and hung around the school. All the posters will be hung up and displayed at the Empty Bowls Dinner."

  9. After posters are completed, hold a secret vote to select the poster which will be printed professionally. Explain to students that they can only vote for one poster even though they may like more than one. Also explain that the vote is "top secret." They don't want to tell which poster they voted for. This concept can be compared to voting for the president. "When your mom or dad votes for the President, they can only vote for one person and they cannot tell anyone who they voted for. Teacher may want to make the poster element of this lesson a two-day activity depending on the age and stamina of the students.

  10. After the poster is selected for printing, emphasize that all the posters will be displayed at the dinner.


Ask students what we did to fill our empty bowls in our community. What are some examples of things kids can do to help others? (donate, volunteer, give.) What are some things you or your family might be able to donate to those who need it? How did it make you feel to see everyone eating together at the dinner?

Cross Curriculum 

Students create a bowl in art class that will be available for a donation at a pasta dinner fundraiser. After the bowls have been fired and glazed, they will be available for a donation of any amount at an "Empty Bowls" dinner. The teacher can decide if the bowls are available to all community dinner attendees or if the bowl is only available to the student's family. Students will also illustrate a poster to advertise for the event. The school will vote for their favorite poster to be professionally printed. Teachers will be responsible for organizing volunteers to serve at the dinner, finding local busineses that can donate pasta, sauce, bread, dessert, and writing grants to help fund the dinner. Dinner can be held in the school gym/cafeteria. Teacher is responsible for reserving the space and setting the date for the event.