Making a Difference in Our Community

3, 4, 5

Two picture books -- The Three Questions by John J. Muth and Have you Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud -- help students reflect on "doing good" for others. Students walk around the school and community to identify some community and school needs. 

PrintOne 45 minute class period

The learner will:

  • review the meaning of the term philanthropist.
  • identify needs in the school and local area. 
  • select a class project to make a difference in the community.
  • Have you Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud (see Bibliographical References)
  • The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth (see Bibliographical References)
  1. As a comparative reflection, ask the students to think about their favorite candy bar (you may bring in samples). Encourage detailed descriptive language by having them describe how they feel ... while they are thinking about their favorite candy bar; while they are actually eating it; after they eat it. Do they think that they might eat another of those candy bars in the future?
  2. Discuss how reflecting on eating their favorite candy bar and reflecting on their philanthropy might be alike. 
  3. Ask them to reflect in writing on how they feel ... while thinking about taking voluntary action, while they are serving, after they take action. Do they think they'd like to take action again?
  • McCloud, Carol. Have you Filled a Bucket Today? Nelson Publishing, 2006. ISBN: 978-0-9785075-1-0
  • Muth, Jon J.  The Three Questions.  Scholastic Press, 2002.  ISBN: 0439199964


  1. Anticipatory Set: Ask students to name some things they like about your school or community. Then ask them to name some things that could be improved: a polluted playground, a park without flowers, a person who is lonely or needs help. Ask the students to describe time, talent, or treasures that could be used to help these situations. 

  2. Ask the students to recall the meaning of the word philanthropist. A philanthropist "gives time, talent, or treasure and takes action for the common good." 

  3. Use the "think, pair, share model" to reflect on the following question: How can kids be philanthropists? Students think about the question, then talk it over with the person sitting next to them. They should discuss examples and reasons to support their opinion. After students talk for a few minutes, ask students to share their ideas with the whole class.

  4. Tell the students that you are going to read them a story about a boy who wants to be a good person. He will ask three questions. The answers will help him be a good person. Before reading, ask the students to give some advice about how to be a good person. Write their ideas on a chart.

  5. Read aloud the story The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth (see Bibliographical References).

  6. After reading, ask the students to state what the boy learned about being a good person. Compare the answers to their ideas from before reading. Add the answers from the book to the list of ways to be a good person.

  7. Read Have you Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud.

  8. Use one or both of the books as a starting point to help students recognize that children can be philanthropic in simple ways by looking at the people right next to them and the environment immediately around them--such as the school grounds or local community. Tell the students that like Nikolai in the story, they are going to respond to a need that is right next to them.

  9. Take the students for a walk around the school building, school grounds, and/or neighborhood to help them think of a way they can make a difference (look for safety issues, pollution, unkindness, loneliness, etc.). End the lesson by asking children to think overnight about their school and the needs it may have.

  10. Day Two

    Write the following quote on the board: "If not me, who? If not now, when?" by Mikhail Gorbachev former leader of the Soviet Union and ask the students to share their thoughts on what they think the quote means.

  11. Have students brainstorm needs they observed around their school and community. Encourage them to think about what "breaks their heart" and they'd like to see improved. 

  12. Discuss the different ideas and star the four or five ideas that seem to be the ones the group cares about most. Brainstorm things they can do to move toward making those things better. 

  13. Discuss pros and cons of the favorite four or five ideas for taking action. You may use a decision-making model for this.

  14. Make a final choice of a philanthropic project that they class can carry out together. This may take several days or weeks to plan and carry out. See this mini-course on Getting Started with Service-Learning or show the class this 3-minute video about Servic-Learning

  15. Provide time for writing in journals each day as the students carry out their plan. The journal entries will help the students create a book that describes their completed project.


When project is finished, students will write and illustrate a book describing the project and how the class demonstrated philanthropy. Make sure they used the terms time, treasure, and talent and explained how each was demonstrated in this project.

Cross Curriculum 

Working as a group, the students select a philanthropic project, formulate a plan, and execute that plan to address the need.

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.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a benefit of group cooperation.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.7 Identify women and minority philanthropists.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe one reason why a person might give or volunteer.
      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.