Deliver Gratitude Day

6, 7, 8

This lesson focuses on the meaning and benefits of gratitude. Participants give examples of what people give up (opportunity cost) when they give philanthropically. For their service project, the young people will decide how they can 'deliver gratitude' to a deserving person or group. They will then complete a service such as writing thank you notes. 

Photo Credit: Gratitude Tag by Eugene Kim is licensed under CC by 4.0 

PrintOne class period, plus time for a project

The learners will: 

  • discuss examples of giving and receiving gratitude.
  • compare and discuss the meanings of quotes on gratitude and giving.
  • gain an understanding of the 'cost' of helping others (time, money, effort, etc.).

YouTube video The Gratitude Experiment:

  • gratitude: the state of appreciation and gratefulness; thankfulness
  • philanthropy: giving time, talent, or treasure and taking action for the common good.
  • opportunity cost: the next best alternative that must be given up when a choice is made. Not all alternatives, just the next best choice 
  • GivingTuesday: the second biggest giving day of the year fueled by individuals advocating for what they care about through social media. 
Home Connection 

Young people say thank you at least once a day at home for a week. 


Follow the project with a brief reflection.

  1. Discuss the impact of their project on the person they thanked. Reflect on how they felt when they said thank you.
  2. Youth groups present a slideshow or social media message to encourage others to express gratitude and “pay it forward.” 


  1. Anticipatory Set: (5 minutes)

    1. Post this quote: “It is not happy people who are grateful; it is grateful people who are happy.”
    2. Ask the participants what they think of the quote. 
    3. Define grateful/gratitude. According to the world’s leading gratitude researcher, Robert Emmons, gratitude is an “affirmation that there are good things in the world.” 
    4. Say, "We are going to use this information about gratitude to make someone happy." 
  2. Part One: (15 minutes) What or who am I grateful for? 

    Watch a video about gratitude: The Gratitude Experiment:

    Participants quietly write a list of things and/or people they are grateful for. 

    Have young people stand in two circles made up of the same number of people. One circle faces out, and the other circle faces them one to one. On your cue, they tell the person facing them one thing they are grateful for. Then the outer circle rotates clockwise, so everyone is facing someone new. Repeat several times - long enough for them to stretch themselves to think of new things, but not so long they lose interest. 

  3. Part Two: (10 minutes) Discuss quotes about gratitude.

    Form groups of 3-5. Copy the following quotes and give random quotes to each group. Give them five minutes to discuss and plan, and one minute each to teach their quote and its meaning to the rest of the class. They may act it out or give examples. 

    1. “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” - Albert Einstein

    2. “None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude. Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.” - Fred De Witt Van Amburgh

    3. "If you count all your assets, you always show a profit." - Robert Quillen

    4. "Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough." - Oprah Winfrey
  4. Share the Science of Giving on the white board and talk about the benefits of giving. Relate giving to gratitude - when someone gives to us, we feel gratitude, and when we give, we inspire gratitude in others. 

  5. Part Three: (10 minutes) Making a choice to make a difference

    Volunteering and giving have a cost to the giver, something they give up when they take action, which may be in time, money, effort, energy, or a missed opportunity. 

    The cost of volunteering is simply something you have give up in order to help another person. Opportunity cost is "the next best alternative that must be given up when a choice is made. Not all alternatives, just the next best choice." For example, when you volunteer to clean up trash by the river, you may give up the opportunity to play soccer after school. When you spend time making advocacy messages for the Humane Society, the opportunity cost may be losing time connecting with friends on social media. Helping pass out water to runners at a marathon may cost the volunteer energy.

    Before taking action, the giver decides whether the benefits of giving time are greater than the opportunity cost. 

    Ask, "Are you willing to give up some time or energy to contribute to someone else's happiness?" 

  6. Service Project

    Project Overview: Communicate gratitude to someone either in a letter or on social media. The gratitude contributes to the well-being of all.  

    Procedure: The planning and writing can happen in advance, and the “Gratitude Delivery” will be completed on Giving Tuesday.

    • Explore the "GivingTuesday" website of the global initiative. The goal of #GivingTuesday is to encourage all people to give on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. GivingTuesday is the second biggest giving day of the year and it is fueled by social media. 
    • Think about someone who you admire or appreciate (parent, grandparent, coach, teacher, friend, mentor, school staff, military member). What do you admire? What did they do to help you?
    • Write a thank you note and send it to them in the mail.
    • Write a sentence of gratitude for someone on a piece of paper, and take a picture of yourself holding it. Post it on social media with the hashtags #unselfie, #givingtuesday, #gratitude, and #teach1.
    • Leave sticky notes of encouragement throughout the building.  
    • Deliver coffee and donuts to school staff, like lunch workers, bus drivers, and office staff.
Cross Curriculum 

Read about the service-learning project called Gratitude Brunch by California students who were taught using this Deliver Gratitude Day lesson to guide student learning and action.

Ms. Yamasaki is a 5th grade teacher from California who said, “I value teaching service and philanthropy to my students for many reasons. One main reason teaching service learning is valuable is because it inspires children to think of others, rather than just themselves. When they know they are helping others, it gets them excited about their learning and what they are doing.”

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Define and give examples of selfishness and selflessness.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.5 Identify one local citizen who has helped the community through giving and/or service.
    2. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Explain how <i>opportunity cost</i> relates to philanthropic giving by individuals and corporations.
      2. Benchmark MS.3 Give examples of <i>opportunity cost</i> related to philanthropic giving by individuals and corporations.
      3. Benchmark E.3 Give examples of <i>opportunity cost</i> in philanthropic giving.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.2 Identify why people practice philanthropy related to their own self-interest.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. 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.