Following in Their Footsteps (Private-Religious)

3, 4, 5

This lesson emphasizes that each individual must take action. After reflecting upon all that they learned earlier in the unit, students will have the opportunity to plan and execute a tikkun olam project of their choosing to help the local community.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo forty minute periods followed by one forty minute period each week for the ensuing six weeks.

The learner will:

  • reflect upon earlier lessons on tikkun olam.
  • inquire into possible tikkum olam projects.
  • plan a tikkun olam project by setting realistic goals to accomplish a specific outcome.
  • follow-through on plans.
  • Small pieces of paper
  • copy for each studentof Handout One:"First They Came for the Jews" (in English and Spanish)
  • Access to the online Yellow Pages
  • Access to e-mail
  • copy for each students of Handout Two: Project Plan Worksheet (in Spanish, Handout Three)

Kids Guide to Social Action, by Barbara A. Lewis, Free Spirit Publishing, 1998. ISBN: 1575420384

Pastor Marin Niemoller. “First They Came for the Jews”

Pay It Forward Amazon: ASIN: B00005BK5U

For project ideas: or


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Pass out small pieces of paper. Describe the following scenario to your students: Jonnie is a fourth grader. One day when Jonnie was on the way to the cafeteria for lunch, he saw his classmate Susie crying in the staircase. She had lost the new pearl earring that her mother 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?

    Tell students to put a check on the piece of paper if they think Jonnie should help Susie and an X on the paper if they think he should take time to eat lunch before his math test. Collect paper and tally the results. Ask a couple of volunteers to explain their answers. Guide students to realize that even a small act of kindness is helping to make the world a better place.


  2. Ask students what would happen if people did not take action to help others. Take a few answers and tell the class that you are going to investigate this question further by reading a poem.

  3. Pass out "First They Came for the Jews" and read as a class. 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.

  4. Tell students that it is time for them to take action within their local community. Explain that their actions can be on a large scale, such as the passage, or a small scale, such as Jonnie, but that it must include a specific outcome and established goals.

  5. Split students into groups of three to four and distribute one "Project Plan Worksheet" to each group (see Attachment Two). Instruct them to brainstorm categories of people in the community who could benefit from acts of kindness (such as elderly, sick, children, hungry people, homeless, etc.) and to write their ideas in Part I on their worksheet. After the groups complete their brainstorming, have each group choose one idea for their project and circle that choice on their worksheet.

  6. Have a class discussion in which each group has the opportunity to share the category that they have chosen. As a class, brainstorm ideas of specific projects that could help the categories that were chosen. Deal with each group separately, guiding the class to come up with names of institutions and possible contacts within the institution. There is room for students to write the class’s suggestions in Part II of their worksheet.

  7. Give the group members time to consult each other to choose an idea and plan how to find out more information. They should plan to call, e-mail, write, or visit a contact at the organization that they chose, and they should set a specific time when they will do this. They can write this in Part III of their worksheet.

  8. Week Two: Once students have gathered information, have them plan their project and write it in Part IV of their worksheet. They should set specific weekly goals for the ensuing four weeks.

  9. ​Weeks Three through Six: Allow students to evaluate their progress in Part V on their worksheets and update the class on their accomplishments.

  10. Week Seven: Have students present their final accomplishments (Part VI on their worksheets).


Goals and progress as documented on the Project Plan Worksheets should be assessed throughout the project. At the end of the six weeks of planning, have each student tell the class how it felt to partake in their tikkun olam project. Ask them to describe the best part, the hardest part, and what future tikkun olam projects they would like to do.

Cross Curriculum 

Students will plan and execute a service project to help the local community.

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.