Johnny Be Good

K, 1, 2

Students will define philanthropy and identify ways in which Johnny Appleseed acted as a philanthropist. After identifying ways in which they personally act as philanthropists, they will raise awareness of philanthropy in the school and home.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo Thirty-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • listen to and discuss the story of Johnny Appleseed.
  • state the definition of philanthropy as giving of time, talent and treasure for the common good.
  • give examples of small acts of philanthropy.
  • raise awareness of philanthropy in the school and home by wearing a nametag that challenges others to ask about philanthropy.
  • An adult volunteer dressed as Johnny Appleseed (Day One)
  • Read-aloud copy of a Johnny Appleseed story (see Bibliographical References)
  • Drawing paper
  • Paper toweling
  • Spray bottle with adjustable nozzle
  • Chart paper with sentence written in advance (Day Two)
  • Overhead or printed copies of "The Word for Me Is Philanthropy" poem (Handout One)
  • An Action of the Heart (Handout Two)
  • Pre-cut yarn for each student (16" to 20")
  • One 4" x 5" card for each student

Teacher Note: Make the nametags in advance. Type the phrase "Ask me why I am a philanthropist." Copy it and glue it on each card. Make two holes at the top of each card. Attach the yarn through the holes so that the nametags can hang from the students’ necks.

Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework: The students wear their nametags at home until they get ready for bed. This will generate discussion at home about philanthropy. As an extension, they may keep track of how many people asked them the question on their nametag. The next day, make a class graph showing how many times students were asked about their nametags.

  • Community Partnerships with Youth, Inc. The Word for Me Is Philanthropy. Franklin, IN: Teachers’ Guide, 2002.
  • Community Partnerships with Youth, Inc. The Word for Me Is Philanthropy. Franklin, IN: Activity Book, 2002.
  • Greene, Carol. John Chapman: The Man Who Was Johnny Appleseed. Chicago: Children’s Press, 1991. ISBN: 0516042238
  • Kelley, Rick. What Can I Do For You. Audio CD, 2003. Kelley Entertainment. Made in conjunction with LTG
  • Le Sueur, Meridel. Little Brother of the Wilderness. Holy Cow Press, 1995. ISBN: 0930100212
  • Lindbergh, R. & Hallquist, K. Johnny Appleseed. Megan Tingley, 1993. ISBN: 0316526347


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Show the class the cover of the book about Johnny Appleseed. Ask the students if they have heard of Johnny Appleseed and what they already know about him. Invite the guest who is dressed as Johnny Appleseed to come in and talk to the class about when he lived, what his goals were and why he dressed the way he did. (The costume should include a plain shirt, ragged pants and a metal pot on the head - to keep your head cool in the afternoon, of course!)

  2. Before reading the book, tell the students to listen for what things Johnny Appleseed did for the people of his time. (The teacher or guest may read the book.)

    • After the story, discuss what Johnny Appleseed did for the common good. Ask students whether Johnny Appleseed shared his time, his talent and/or his treasure (things that he owned). What were his acts of kindness? How did they benefit others? What is his attitude about nature and the environment?
    • Discuss the story using questions such as these:
    1. What is the setting of the story?
    2. Who are the characters?
    3. What happened at the beginning, in the middle and at the end?
    4. What was the problem in the story?
    5. How was the problem solved?

    Optional: Read another book about Johnny Appleseed. (See Bibliographical References) Or check out several books and let older students read different versions for independent reading.

  3. In response, students each draw a representation of one act of kindness by Johnny Appleseed. Older students can write a short description of the act. Younger students may dictate a sentence for the teacher or assistant to write on the paper.

  4. Day Two:

  5. Prepare in advance: On chart paper, write the word "philanthropy" and its definition: "Caring, sharing and taking action by using your time, talent and treasure for the common good." Beside the word "time," draw a picture of a clock. Beside the word "talent," draw a picture of stick figures holding hands. Beside the word "treasure," draw a picture of a dollar sign.

  6. Read the definition of philanthropy to the students and then ask the students to think about how people like them get to be philanthropists. Illustrate this concept with the following demonstration.

  7. Hold the spray bottle up for students to see with the spray nozzle set to a mist. Spray the wide mist onto the paper toweling in your other hand. Show the students how the paper toweling got a little wet all over. Explain that a person begins to be a philanthropist very much like the mist spray. The person may have a wide area of interests that cover a wide area of topics. (It may help to name some of the varied interests and talents in the classroom.)

  8. Tighten the spray nozzle, making it a direct spray. Spray the thin stream onto a new paper towel. Show the students the small, but very wet area of the paper toweling. Tell students that as they discover what they really care about, their actions will be more focused like this spray of water. Then their work may make a more noticeable difference.

  9. Look together at the following words in the definition of philanthropy: time, talent and treasure. Ask the group for examples of how young people can share their time for the common good. These actions can be very small, such as asking a new student to play or helping a younger student find his teacher. Write all of their ideas in a list on chart paper.

  10. Ask the group for examples of how young people can share their talent for the common good. These actions can be very small, such as helping someone with a math problem or teaching a younger student to play a recess game. Write all of their ideas in a list on chart paper.

  11. Ask the group for examples of how young people can share their treasure for the common good. These actions can be very small, such as sharing a toy or letting someone else have the last helping of food. Write all of their ideas in a list on chart paper.

  12. Read aloud the poem "The Word for Me Is Philanthropy" (Handout One)Encourage the students to shout the last line.

  13. After reading the poem, each student shares one small act of philanthropy he or she has done (they may refer to their brainstormed lists on the charts). After each student shares, have the whole class chant, "We are philanthropists!" Reinforce the idea that all of these small actions add up to one big improvement for the common good. They are making the world (or school or home) a better place.

  14. Pass out the nametags that say, "Ask me why I am a philanthropist." Tell the students that they must wear this all day (until bedtime) and be ready to answer the question. They can practice with each other before they leave the classroom.


The students demonstrate their understanding of a kind act by drawing a picture of Johnny Appleseed in action. Observe student participation in discussions about their own philanthropic actions. Have each student draw a picture of one philanthropic action (Handout Two: An Action of the Heart). Teacher Note: Keep this picture for use in Lesson Four: Apple-icious.

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.2 Define philanthropy and charity.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.4 Demonstrate listening skills.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.
      2. 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.