Disaster Relief - You Can Count On Me!

K, 1, 2

This lesson introduces ways to respond with empathy and generosity to a natural disaster. Young people learn about civic responsibility and addressing needs. They define vocabulary terms philanthropy, spend, save, and donate

PrintOne 45-Minute Session, plus time for a service project

The learner will:

  • define philanthropy as giving time, talent, or treasure and taking action for the common good.
  • define choices for money: save, spend and donate.
  • learn about nonprofits and take action to address needs caused by a natural disaster.
  • read-aloud copy of the book Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chin
  • copies of handouts: Conducting Research and Relief Organizations
Teacher Preparation 
  • Research trustworthy organizations related to the current natural disaster. In a time of crisis, often the best philanthropy is to donate funds.
  • If young people choose to collect other items such as blankets, new toys, personal hygiene products, diapers, etc. to donate to shelters housing the victims, be sure to consult, in advance of any collection, with organizations about what is really needed. Make sure you understand how the items will be collected, stored, and transported to the relief agency or shelter.
  1. Save: to put aside for a particular purpose or occasion 
  2. Spend: to pay out, trade money for goods
  3. Donate: to contribute to a charitable cause (money for a soup kitchen, food pantry, or a faith organization) 
  • Chin, Karen. Sam and the Lucky Money. Lee and Low Books 
  • FEMA for Kids web site at ready.gov/kids


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ms. Straub is a 3rd grade teacher from Indiana who said, "our community was devastated with flooding, and we had the perfect opportunity to complete a service project to benefit those impacted by flood damage." Read about the service-learning project called Flood The Park with Color. Talk about what the young people learned, how they felt about helping, and the impact of youth involvement in addressing needs.

  2. Discuss the current natural disaster. Listen to what the young people know of the facts and their feelings about the events. Use the opportunity to teach media literacy skills and find unbiased sources for getting accurate information. Discuss people affected, causes, and possible needs. Locate the area effected on a map. Build empathy for the people and imagine what it might be like to lose people you love or important things. Tell them that many children just like them are experiencing that loss because of the disaster. Ask the children to reflect about why someone might want to help the victims of the disaster by donating money or sharing goods in response to this crisis.

  3. Define philanthropy as "giving your time, treasures or talents and taking action for the common good." Talk about what treasures might be (money, candy, a special toy, etc.). Tell about some local examples of philanthropy: a park donated or maintained by someone, a soup kitchen, art events, etc. Talk about who benefits from philanthropy. Discuss the meaning of the core democratic principle of "common good."

  4. Show the cover of the book Sam and the Lucky Money. Say that in this book, Sam has a choice of how to spend his money.

    Discuss how they feel about what Sam finally did with his money. Relate their feelings about sharing with victims of a natural disaster with Sam's choice of how to spend his lucky money. 

  5. Explain about the three different things they can do with their money. They can spend it, save it, or donate it. Discuss ideas for each of these options, especially in the context of the recent disaster.

  6. Research (website or phone call) an agency that is helping victims of the disaster to find out what they need. Organize a collection of donations for disaster relief by acting as advocates for the cause to their families and community. As advocates, they share facts about the disaster and the researched nonprofit, how donations are used, reasons to donate, and how to donate. 

  7. Youth voice is very important in making the decision of where to donate funds/items. The choice of organization can be made by voting or by consensus. Follow up on the work of the organization in thedisaster area by periodically researching their accomplishments and problems as they work to rebuild the area. Young people may take personal action by offering to do jobs for family and friends to earn money.

  8. Young people 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 tally the donations. 

  9. See the handout below for a reflection format for writing haiku or cinquain poems about the experience and their role as philanthropists.

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.