Family Lessons in Philanthropy (5th Grade)

3, 4, 5

Students will respond to a literature book about family philanthropy. They will apply/compare their own philanthropic family acts to ideas for volunteering their time and talent to meet needs in the school or greater community.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Forty-Five Minute Class Period
The learner will:
  • identify examples of philanthropy in the literature.
  • review or learn the meaning, and cite examples, for vocabulary words: community, family, service, volunteer, philanthropy, care, share, giving, tradition, culture.
  • brainstorm ways to apply caring skills they learn in the family to meeting needs in the school or greater community.
  • Chart paper
  • Quilt (Optional)
  • The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy
Teacher Preparation 

It is important to be sensitive to the possibility that someone in your class may have some personal experience with homelessness, hunger and poverty.


Students write one to two paragraphs to explain how this lesson made them feel.  They should be told that they are expected to use the vocabulary words that the class has been using for this lesson (family, service, volunteer, philanthropy, community, care, culture, giving, tradition and share) in their reflective response. 

  • Flournoy, Valerie. The Patchwork Quilt. Dial Books for Young Readers 1985: ISBN 0803700970.


  1. Anticipatory Set: If possible, have an old quilt hanging in the room before the students come in to class. Generate a short discussion around the quilt. Discuss how quilts were made many years ago and how important they are to history. Tell them that they are going to hear a story about a quilt and philanthropic acts – acts that show caring, giving, or sharing - within a family.
  2. Before reading the book. List the following vocabulary words on chart paper or a chalk/white board: community, family, service, volunteer, philanthropy, care, share, giving, tradition, culture. Tell the students that each of these words are defined or demonstrated in the book and that after hearing the story they will be attempting to write definitions or examples from the book for each word.
  3. Read aloud The Patchwork Quilt by Valerie Flournoy. Ask students, how did the family members show caring, giving, or sharing (philanthropy)? What needs were met?
  4. Ask the students to name acts of giving and caring they do or could do to meet needs in their family. Lead a discussion about how working together to meet needs strengthens and enhances the family. Tell the students that family is a good place to learn and practice skills of caring and sharing (philanthropy) that can be used to meet needs of other groups to which they belong, such as their school and community.
  5. Brainstorm with the students some of the needs of their school and community that they might be able to address by volunteering (giving their time and talent). Is there anything they do at home that could be a volunteer job they do for the school or greater community? (Possible examples are: walking the dog at home/walking dogs at the local humane society; setting the table, preparing food, serving, or clean-up/volunteer in the school cafeteria or use the same skills at a soup kitchen; house keeping jobs/help a senior neighbor with housekeeping; yard jobs/help clean-up the playground, etc.)
  6. Ask students to help create definitions for the vocabulary words based upon their own knowledge and the story that was read. These should be recorded after each word and the list posted for reference during the service project planning.
  7. Teacher Note: Philanthropy has always been deeply rooted in the family life of the Black community. Students should be reminded that traditions of giving are prevalent in all cultures, just as it is a quilt in the story for this family in the African American community. This lesson could be expanded to include lessons of the traditions of giving for other cultures and families by using the following literature books: The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco, Annie and the Old One by Misha Miles, or Molly’s Pilgrim by Barbara Cohen.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Identify common roles that families play in society.
      2. Benchmark E.2 Identify examples of families supporting giving and sharing.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.1 Give examples of philanthropic traditions of diverse cultures.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.9 Give examples how people give time, talent or treasure in different cultures.