Following in Their Footsteps

3, 4, 5

This lesson guides youth to take take action with a group. They plan and carry out a tikkun olam project of their choosing to help the local community.

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

The learner will:

  • plan a tikkun olam project by setting realistic goals to accomplish a specific outcome.
  • follow-through on plans.

See handouts below;

  • read aloud or projected copy of "First They Came for the Jews" (in English and Spanish)
  • copies of Project Plan Worksheet (also in Spanish)
  • Kids Guide to Social Action, by Barbara A. Lewis, Free Spirit Publishing, 1998. ISBN: 1575420384
  • For project ideas: OR Learning to Give's Issues We Care About


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Describe the following scenario: Jonnie is a fourth grader. On the way to the cafeteria for lunch, he saw his classmate Susie crying in the staircase. She lost a special earring her grandmother had given her. She heard it fall, but could not find it anywhere. Jonnie knew that he was very good at finding lost objects, but he also knew that he did not have much longer to eat his lunch. If he did not eat, he would be hungry during the next period, and he would not be able to concentrate on the math test he had to take. Would it be tikkun olam if Jonnie helped Susie?

    Discuss what Jonnie should do. Note that even a small act of kindness is helping to make the world a better place.

  2. Read aloud first and then together the poem "First They Came for the Jews." Discuss what happened when the person in the passage didn’t take action. Compare it to what would have happened if Jonnie had not helped Susie. Explain that while one outcome would have been much less serious than the other, taking action would have made a difference in both situations.

  3. Now it is time for them to take action within their local community. Explain that their actions can be big or small and based on a need and goals.

  4. Working in groups of three to four, young people follow the steps in the handout "Project Plan Worksheet." See handout below. Learning to Give's Issues We Care About toolkits provide ideas and inspiration for planning. 

  5. Following the interests of the youth, connect with nonprofit guests to talk to the group in person or remotely. This is an opportunity to learn about needs, what the nonprofit does to address needs, and what help they need.

  6. Give the group members plenty of time to research in the community, choose an idea, and plan a project. This includes setting goals and assigning tasks. The handout guides them through the process.

    Carry out the plans, reflecting on the process as you go. When the youth complete their service, they should summarize their efforts and impact. The reflections should include personal thoughts on their role and responsibility in perfecting the world.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.5 Recognize that volunteering requires freedom of choice.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.5 Give examples of actions students can take to improve the common good and list or describe responsibilities that go with those actions.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark E.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
      2. Benchmark E.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark E.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities, and research.
    3. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark E.1 Provide a needed service.
      2. Benchmark E.2 Describe the goals of the project and their impact.
    4. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark E.3 Identify outcomes from the service.