What's Public? What's Private?

K, 1, 2

Youth distinguish between public and private, and categorize a list of places as public or private. They determine their personal responsibility to care for public (common) areas and share their new understanding by making posters about taking care of "common" or public areas in the school or community.

PrintOne Thirty-Forty Minute Session
  • differentiate between public and private property
  • list "commons" areas
  • describe how to take care of "commons" 
  • recording of This Land Is Your Land (see Bibliography)
  • copy of the book This Land Is Your Land (see Bibliography)
  • copy of a T-Chart and a "commons" list
  • Public/Private Log (handout)
  • Letter to Send Home (handout)
Home Connection 

The handouts Public/Private Log and Letter to Send Home may be completed as homework. Their paper must be signed and returned in three days. Check for understanding of the word log. It is a way of keeping track of something. It is a way to keep a record.

  • Guthrie, Woody and Arlo Guthrie. This Land Is Your Land. Rounder Kids C8050. Rounder Records Corp., 1997.
  • Guthrie, Woody and Kathy Jakobsen. This Land Is Your Land. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1998.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Play the song "This Land Is Your Land" and encourage youth to sing along, using the book as a guide if you like.


  2. Refer to the pages in the book This Land Is Your Land where the "No Trespassing" and the "Public Park" signs are shown. Discuss what the word public means. (A place where everyone can go.) Look at the picture to describe what the public park has to offer for everyone (swimming, hiking, camping picnicking, boating, etc.). Explain that public areas are sometimes called commons, a place we all have, where we can all go. Who is responsible for taking care of these places? (We are.)

  3. To make sure young people understand the difference between private and public areas, ask:

    • Why is there a No Trespassing sign in the picture? (Someone lives there.)
    • What is the difference between public and private? (Private belongs to someone; Public belongs to everyone.)
    • Would it be good if every place were public? What about your home? Discuss why there is a need for both public and private land.
  4. Make a T-Chart with Public/Private at the top. Ask children to name places in the community. Then have the group decide if it fits under public or private (possible places include: church, playground, school, friend's home, the beach in front of someone's home).

  5. Ask students to think about the school. It isn't private, but there are some areas where you generally don't go unless invited or asked to go. Ask students to give examples of these areas, (principal's office, another teacher's classroom). There are some areas where everyone goes. These areas are called commons. List some of the commons in the school: lunchroom/cafeteria, playground, gym, hallways, auditorium, lavatories, etc.

  6. Review the meaning of volunteer (a person who does something without getting paid) and philanthropy (giving of your time, talent, or treasure). Explain that volunteers help make the world a better place for us all.

  7. Thinking of commons areas in the school or community, what can we do to make them better or encourage others to make them a better place for everyone? Go through the list of public places and ask youth to give suggestions.

  8. Distribute paper and colored pencils, markers or crayons. Have youth each select one of these things they would like to make a poster about. Explain the task: Make a poster with a drawing and a saying that tells others how we can all take care of our commons. Their posters will be posted in the commons area they wrote about. It will help create awareness of the areas we all use and serve as a reminder of the importance of caring for our commons. Give examples: cafeteria - throw away your own trash, hallways--walk quietly.

Cross Curriculum 

Learners will design posters to share with other learners in the school regarding the care of the commons areas in the school.

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. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.8 Recognize the difference between private property and common resources.
      2. Benchmark E.9 Identify the "commons" in the school and neighborhood.
    2. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.4 Analyze information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to the common good.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. 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.