How Do We Spend, Save, and Donate?: Penny Drive

6, 7, 8
Students explore their thoughts about money and how it can be used in three different ways (spend, save and donate). They investigate motivations for giving as well as their own thoughts regarding their personal spending, saving, and donating. This lesson may be used with a penny drive or penny war to raise money for a charity.

Focus Question: How do our decisions about spending affect the common good?

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Fifty Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • explore how money is used with regard to spend, save, and/or donate.
  • reflect on spending patterns of adults, friends, and self.
  • pictorially represent use of money patterns using pie charts.
  • reflect on the use of money patterns of adults, friends, and self.
  • determine a personal commitment to donating during the Penny Drive.
  • an assortment of colored pens, pencils, markers
  • handout: Demonstration Pie
  • Student copies of handout: Use of Money Pie Charts
  • Student copies of handout: My Commitment Pie Chart: Donating for the Penny Drive

Give each student 10-12 small sticky notes.  Have the students write a word or phrase on each sticky note that comes to mind as they think about their involvement with the service.  Allow 2-4 minutes for their writing. (NOTE: Be prepared to hand students additional sticky notes if they ask for them.)  As the students are writing, place a four-column chart on the display board and label the columns: Feelings, Activities, Effects, and Misc. At the end of 2-4 minutes, have the students decide which column their words or phrases best fit and then have them place their sticky notes under the proper heading. When all of the notes have been posted, read the notes under each column to the students. Have them look for similar comments in order to synthesize and condense the number of sticky notes and eliminate duplication. Lead students to draw some conclusions about their service project experiences based on this activity.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Share with the learners that today they are going to be working with pie charts, to create a visual representation of information. Ask them to share with you what they know about pie charts and their uses. (Teacher Note: Be sure that the learners understand that pie charts are often used in math classes but they are also used in disciplines other than math to show information relating to a whole. Typically, the entire pie represents a whole and the pieces/slices may vary in size as they represent parts of the whole).

    To demonstrate the use of a pie chart, ask the learners to indicate their favorite gym activity from among three choices: basketball, volleyball, and soccer. Ask the learners to raise their hand indicating their preference for each gym activity in turn, writing the tally total on the display board. Then demonstrate by coloring or shading in that portion of Handout One: Demonstration Pie to approximate the number of the whole who opted for basketball, volleyball, and soccer. Place your demonstration pie on the display board for all to see.

  2. Distribute Handout Two: Use of Money Pie Charts sheet to each learner.

  3. Explain to the learners that major publications and newspapers often carry stories about how people are spending their money. Typically, these publishers are interested in how much of what is being spent is personal spending, how much is personal saving, and how much is being donated (given away to others and or causes that promote the common good).

  4. Ask the learners if they recall from earlier lessons what people, who give of their treasures (money) to others and/or causes that promote the common good, are called (philanthropists). Ask the learners if they think anyone can be a philanthropist using their treasure (money).

  5. Point out to the learners that there are three pies represented on their handout, each with a heading indicating a particular group or individual. They are to designate and label the portion of each pie that they think may be true of that group or individual’s spending. (Teacher Note: The learners should be encouraged to use varied colors or varied shades to represent the pieces of the pie and the corresponding color/shade should be indicated in the key found next to each pie.)

  6. Share that “spend” means the money being spent for living expenses, recreation, health, entertainment, travel, personal effects, etc., things that are needed or thought to be needed for oneself and/or family.

  7. Share that “save” means the money that is set aside, placed in a bank or other savings institution for college, a rainy day, retirement, etc., things that might be needed in the future.

  8. Share that “donate” means the money that is given to nonprofit organizations such as charities, faith-based institutions, individuals in need (the Red Cross, the local library, disaster relief, etc. - all of whom depend on donations for support of their projects and programs).

  9. Instruct the learners that they will need to designate portions of the pie for each of the three ways to use money under each of the four headings based on how they think the individuals indicated in the heading use their money in terms of spending, savings, and donating. Each pie should visually indicate what portion of the whole is spent, saved, and donated. Tell them that contrary to what is usually asked of them, they are not to place their name on these sheets.

  10. Collect the Use of Money Pie Charts and post them on the display board for all to see. Have the learners walk about and mentally make comparisons and prepare to draw conclusions about how others think adults, friends and self use their money.

  11. Reconvene the class and open the floor for discussion, based around these guide questions:

    • Did what others displayed on their pie charts closely match their own individual response? In what ways were they alike and/or different?
    • Did it seem that age had anything to do with how the different groups might spend their money? If so, how? If not, why not?
    • Which group did the majority of learners identify to be the most likely to donate more of their ‘total pie?’ Why might this be so?
    • Did the learners typically rank themselves higher or lower in their donating than they ranked the donating of their peers? Ask why they think this is so?
  12. With the Penny Drive fundraiser soon to begin, have the learners strategize on ways they think they might be able to motive adults or peers to be involved in the drive. Have them list ways that they, themselves, could be motivated to play a bigger role in donating to the drive. Share and list all ideas on the board.

  13. Distribute Handout Three: My Commitment Pie Chart: Donating for the Penny Drive and ask the learners to make a personal commitment by filling in the pie to represent their spending in the three identified areas during the Penny Drive.

  14. Tell the learners to come to the display board to retrieve their own Use of Money Pie Charts. Ask the learners to reflect on whether or not the activities and classroom discussions changed how they would draw their My Commitment Pie Chart: Donating for the Penny Drive compared to their initial Use of Money Pie Charts reflecting their own use of money.

  15. Ask the students to keep their personal commitment during the Penny Drive fundraising event.


Learner involvement in the class discussion and their depth of reflection and understanding, as represented by their comments and considerations given to the construction of their pie chart and personal commitment, will form the bases for assessment.

Cross Curriculum 

The class may hold a penny drive to raise money for a chosen cause. To hold the competition, each class or team competes against all others. Each team has a jar in a central location labeled with the team name and the charity they are raising money for. The idea is to earn the most money for your class or grade. In a penny war, teams try to collect the most pennies, and silver coins count against their total. This creates a competition where other teams try to sabotage the other teams by adding silver coins or dollar bills to the competitors' jars. The value of the coins count against the total, so a quarter subtracts 25 points from a jar of pennies. You can have two winners: one winner is the team that has the most points and another winner collects the highest monetary value.

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. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Discuss the function of family traditions and role modeling in teaching about sharing and giving.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Explain charitable giving in economic terms.