Doodle Stones

K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

In this one-period lesson, students examine the effects of using words as social action today and in history. They use words to communicate positively and build community within the school. A service project involves writing positive messages on stones and placing them strategically around the building to uplift and beautify the school!

Photo Credit: Sitting in circles by Yusuke Kawasaki is licensed under CC by 4.0 

PrintOne class period, plus time for a project

The learners will:

  • define philanthropy. 
  • explore the power of positive support from peers. 
  • create written messages to build a more inclusive and uplifting school climate. 
  • YouTube video
  • copy of the PowerPoint slide show to facilitate this lesson (below)
  • stones, paint, and markers for the stone decorating
Teacher Preparation 

Use the attached PowerPoint to guide classroom discussion.

Teacher (and students) may collect stones in advance. The stones may be painted with spray paint in advance, if desired.


Follow the project with a brief reflection.

  • Write a paragraph about a time when you read or heard words of encouragement or positive wisdom at the right time.
  • How did you decide what to write on your stone? What do those words mean to you?
  • How do you think others will feel when they read what you have written?
  • How do you feel when you see your positive message placed strategically at school?

Follow-up: Discuss what they’d like to do next to continue sharing positive thoughts in their school community.


  1. Adapt this one-period lesson plan for any grade level and follow it with a simple and powerful service project. The reflection brings learning and service impact together. 

  2. Anticipatory Set: (10 minutes)

    Write on the board, “What is philanthropy?” Ask students to say the word. Break it down into three chunks: phil-an-thropy. Assign a chunk to each third of the classroom, and point to the student groups to have them say their chunk of the word in order.  Have fun saying it in the correct order and mixed up order. 

  3. Show this one-minute video, “What Is Philanthropy?”
    ●    Have students write a definition of philanthropy in their own words. 
    ●    Ask for students to share their definitions with the group. 
    ●    Come up with one definition to write on the board. Sample: “Giving time, talent, or treasure or taking voluntary action for the common good.” 

  4. Part One: (15 minutes)

    Students come up with ideas for ways to “take action for the common good” for the classroom and then for the whole school. They will each have a chance to add an idea and be heard by everyone. 

    • Pose this question: What are some things we can say to others to bring a smile to their faces, help them when they are struggling with a problem, or make the classroom a cooperative place? 
    • Tell the students you will pass a medium-size stone around the room. Explain that they may only speak when they are holding the stone. The others will show respect by listening to the speaker.  
    • The teacher then holds the stone and says something like. “You are worth my time.” Pass the stone to a student. That student adds an idea (e.g., “Will you play with me?" "Everyone gets a turn." "You can do it.”) and passes on the stone. (Someone should take notes.)
  5. Reflect with students about how it makes them feel to say or hear these words.

  6. Tell students they will be writing encouraging messages like these on stones to be placed around the inside and outside of the school to spread a spirit of positive action for the common good. 

    • Tell the students the name of their project is "Doodle Stones," and STONES stands for Sharing Thoughtful, Optimistic Notes of Encouragement Successfully. Go over each word and discuss. Teach the term acronym.
  7. Part Two: (10 minutes) 
    Tell the students that written or spoken word can be a powerful instrument of change. Give examples from history or literature (in your curriculum), such as the Declaration of Independence, speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr., or the words of characters in a book, like The Lorax.

  8. Show the students the following quotes (also in the PowerPoint) and discuss how words can move people to have courage, do the right thing, or act for the common good. 

    • “Whatever the problem, be a part of the solution.” ― Tina Fey
    • “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.” - unknown
    • “Be the change you want to see in the world.” ― Gandhi
    • “The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” ― Barack Obama
    • “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – The Lorax
  9. Service Project - Students will decorate a stone with a positive quote or encouraging word that is placed inside or outside of the school for others to find and get encouragement from. This service project may be started in class and completed in subsequent days, either with the class, or with friends and family.

    • Students work in small groups with laptops to find encouraging quotes or words from leaders and literature. These may be related to issues they care about, community building at school, encouraging people who feel lonely, challenging people to be brave or open-minded, or simply kind words.
    • Have students decide what they want to write on their stone, and use paper to make a model of what they want their stone to look like – words and decoration.
    • Teacher and students collect stones on the school grounds or as homework. Look for stones that have a flat area that can easily be written on. You may spray paint the stones with various bright colors first or simply use permanent markers. 
    • Action: Decorate and place the stones in strategic places where the words may be helpful. Have the students brainstorm good spots in the lunchroom, on the outside campus, or in other gathering places. 
Cross Curriculum 

Variation for older students: 

Middle High school students could put notes of encouragement on all the lockers of their peers.

Variation for younger students:

Film students in a video saying an encouraging word or sentence. Examples: Smile, Be brave, Never give up, Always do your best, etc.


Discuss a "sense of place" when finding stones. Extend the geography component by printing a unique Facebook page or #doodlestones hashtag on the back of the stone where finders can track where the positive stone travels. 

Read about the service-learning project called Giving Back and Doodle Stones by students who were taught using this Doodle Stones lesson to guide student learning and action.

Mrs. Found is a high school Calculus teacher who said, "You may forget learning the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus but you will never forget how you made someone feel by lending a helping hand and they will never forget how you made them feel."

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
      2. Benchmark HS.1 Define philanthropy to include giving and sharing; volunteering; and private individual action intended for the common good. Explain how a volunteer individual/group can act for the common good.
      3. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.
      4. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.5 Identify historic examples of citizens using civil society organizations to petition the government.