Disaster Relief - You Can Count On Me! (3-5)

3, 4, 5

This lesson introduces learners to taking personal action to respond to a crisis or disaster. They learn vocabulary terms spend, save, and donate, as well as the definition of philanthropy (giving time, talent, and treasure, and taking action for the common good).

PrintOne 50-Minute Session, plus time for a service project

The learner will:

  • define philanthropy and the vocabulary words save, spend, and donate.
  • research and choose an aid organization participating in disaster relief efforts.
  • copies for each small group of  Conducting Research (in Spanish, Handout Nine) and Relief Organizations (also in Spanish)
Teacher Preparation 

Note: The majority of the relief organizations request help through monetary donations. The logistics of making a financial donation are by far the least complicated for the giver and for the aid agency. If your group wishes to collect other items such as blankets, new toys, personal hygiene products, or diapers, be sure to consult - in advance of any collection - with organizations about what is really needed.

Home Connection 

Send home a note introducing the project and explaining how you will be collecting money or items to donate to a charitable cause (Handout below: Letter to Families and Caregivers). The Simple Safe Service project "Family Donation Decision" can guide families in giving.


Chin, Karen. Sam and the Lucky Money. Lee and Low Books (reprint edition), 1997. ISBN: 1880000539

FEMA for Kids web site at https://www.ready.gov/kids

Learning to Give's Crisis Preparation and Response toolkit is full of resources and background information.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Talk about the current events or disaster coming up in conversations or in the news. Listen to and ask young people about the facts they are hearing and their concerns and feelings about the events. Clarify the information the students share and help them locate the area affected on a map. It may be helpful to teach them how to check the reliability of facts and sources.

    Build empathy for the people impacted by the situation. Tell them that many children just like them are experiencing loss because of the disaster. Ask the children to reflect on why someone might want to help the victims of the disaster by writing notes, donating money, or sharing goods in response to this crisis.

  2. Many people want to help in a crisis by donating money. Tell the children there are three things they can do with their money: spend, save, or donate. On three charts, list the following words as headings: Save, Spend, and Donate. Lead a brainstorming, generating ideas to define these vocabulary words. (What does it mean to spend money? How do people save money? What does it mean to donate money?) List the children’s responses on the appropriate charts.

    Write the definition of Philanthropy on the Donate chart as "giving your time, treasure, or talent and taking action for the common good." Talk about what treasure might be (money, a special toy, blanket, homemade food, gently used clothing). 

    Optional: The book Sam and the Lucky Money sparks discussion about empathy and donating treasure to someone who needs it.

  3. If the children want to do something, they have an opportunity to join together as a community to donate time, talent, or treasure to support the victims of the natural disaster. Brainstorm ideas together.

    • If the disaster is outside their community, encourage them donate money as the most effective way to help. They may bring in coins from home, earned from their own efforts. Brainstorm where the money might come from. Suggest that they might offer to do jobs for family and friends to earn money, or their families might help them collect money from family members and friends. They may make posters or write notes that tell about the need. 
    • Brainstorm how they can involve other children in the fundraising project. They may create posters/banners or presentations to share with others. They may choose to teach the song "What is a Philanthropist?" to their peers as part of a presentation to promote the project in other classrooms and school-wide.
    • As money is donated, have the children sort the coins and dollars collected each day and post the results. Create a "thermometer" graph to keep track of the donations or a paper "Chain of Caring" to hang in a public place to tally the donations. 
  4. The children should visit websites to access information about the organizations that are partnered in disaster relief (see Relief Organizations for a list of organizations). Assign each small group an organization to research. They use Conducting Research as a guide.

    Have the groups report whether or why they think their researched organization would be an appropriate organization to donate funds to. Vote or come to a consensus about which organization(s) will receive the funds.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
      2. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Give examples of needs met by government, business, civil society, and family.
      2. Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a benefit of group cooperation.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.4 Demonstrate listening skills.
    3. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark E.6 Identify and describe fundamental democratic principles.
    4. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.1 Explore and research issues and present solutions using communication tools.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe one reason why a person might give or volunteer.
      2. Benchmark E.6 Make a connection between fundamental democratic principles and philanthropy.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 04. Raising Private Resources
      1. Benchmark E.1 Identify why private resources (volunteers and money) are needed.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Set a fund-raising goal and identify sources of private funds.
      3. Benchmark E.5 Discuss how private funds might be distributed among competing priorities.
    2. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark E.2 Evaluate progress on the service-learning project before, during, and after the project.
      2. Benchmark E.3 Identify outcomes from the service.