Getting the Hang of Philanthropy: Traditions

3, 4, 5

The students explore family traditions of giving. Using the book Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt as a springboard, they discuss traditions of philanthropy in community.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne 45 to 60 minute class period

The learner will:

  • identify examples of philanthropy in the family and community.
  • compare volunteer activities people do today with activities done in an earlier time.
  • Vocabulary list
  • Chart paper, markers
  • Book: Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt
Teacher Preparation 

Philanthropy has always been deeply rooted in the black community. During slavery “surrogate mothers” informally adopted children who had been torn from their natural mothers. This care of abandoned children has always continued so that it is not unusual to see children being raised by aunts, uncles and grandparents. The sharing of food during slavery is a practice that continues today. Free societies and the church were and are dominant forces in the African American community. Students should be reminded that money is not the only means by which philanthropy exhibits itself in the any community.

  • citizen (noun): A person who lives in a city or town
  • civic virtue (noun): A demonstration of good citizenship
  • common good (noun): individual citizens having the commitment and motivation to promote the welfare of the community (even if they must sacrifice their own time, personal preferences or money) to work together with other members for the greater benefit of all
  • community (noun): A group of people working together, and the places where they live, work, have fun, and share special times
  • cooperate (verb): To work together toward a common cause
  • donation (noun): A gift; contribution
  • philanthropy (noun): donations of time, talent, or treasures or private action for the common good
  • respect   (noun) 1.  A feeling of honor or esteem:  2.  Regard or consideration  3.  Polite expressions of consideration or regard
  • responsible (adjective): 1.  Having a certain duty or obligation:  2.  Dependable; reliable; trustworthy:  3.  Involving important duties or obligations 
  • talent (noun): A natural ability in the learning or doing of something
  • tradition (noun): A special way of doing something that lasts a long time because people care about it and pass it on to others
  • treasure (noun): Money, jewels, or other valuable things that are collected and stored up
  • volunteer (noun): Someone who does a job or gives services freely and without expecting payment
Home Connection 

For homework, students ask their family members what problems they see in the community that they wish someone would do something about. Each student may have a question to investigate by exploreing issues and contacting a community person or organization.


Students write and draw their reflection in the style of a quilt (on paper). Each square contains either words or a drawing that illustrates a different part of their reflection on volunteering and sharing time or talent for the common good:

  • How I feel
  • What I did
  • What I learned
  • Next steps
  • Hopkinson, Deborah.  Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt.  New York: Dragonfly Books, 1993.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Tell the students that like every ethnic, racial, and religious community, the black community has its own traditions of philanthropy. (Philanthropy is giving time, talent, or treasure and taking action for the common good.) Some traditions originated from being people who were enslaved. (See Teacher Preparation, above.) These traditions help strengthen communities. Let the students know that you are going to read them a story about an African American slave who used her quilt-making talent for the common good.

  2. Read Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt to the class. Ask, "How did family members/friends show caring and sharing toward one another?"

  3. Lead a discussion about the interactions between family and friends related to their needs and wants. Call attention to the traditions and jobs within the family that made the family stronger and happier.

  4. Remind the students that doing helpful things without getting paid is an act of philanthropy. Philanthropy is giving time, talent, or treasure and taking action for the common good.

  5. Ask students to think of the things that they do in and around school and at home and in the community to help out without being told to. Discuss:

    • How do you feel when you do something helpful without any expectation of something in return?
    • Do you think that doing something helpful at home, at school, or in the community is a service for others?
    • Does your action make the family stronger? The community stronger? How?
    • What are some of the things you can do to help others that use your time and talent and interests?
  6. Arrangethe students into groups of three to four and have them each work on a chart entitled, “Caring, Sharing, and Volunteering.” Divide the chart into two columns entitled “At School” and “In the Community.” Have the teams list things they can do in these places that show caring and sharing, and are acts of volunteering to enhance their family, their community or their school community.

  7. Bring the groups together to compare their charts and create a master chart.

  8. Lead a discussion about what they can do next as a class to carry out an act of giving from their master list. They may each explore a question outside of class and bring back information about what is needed. For example, they may have written, "We can clean up a park." An investigation may be to find a park that needs cleaning and ask permission to clean it up as a group.

Cross Curriculum 

Students investigate needs in the community and at school and find a way to share their time, talent, or treasure and take action for the good of the community.

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.
    2. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.11 Describe the difference between volunteer and paid labor.
  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.