Why Clean the Beach?

3, 4, 5

Introduce the concept of philanthropy and guide the learners to be philanthropists who take volunteer action for the common good.

PrintOne 30 Minute Session

The learner will:

  • compare and contrast selfishness and selflessness.
  • differentiate between private property and common resources.
  • identify an organization that takes care of a local natural resource.
  • Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg
  • Optional: River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry
  • Optional: The Kids Guide to Social Action by Barbara A. Lewis
  • Cherry, Lynne. A River Ran Wild. Boston: Houghton Mifflin College, 1995. ISBN: 0395732409
  • Lewis, Barbara A. The Kids Guide to Social Action. New York: Spirit Publishing, 1991.
  • Van Allsburg, Chris. Just a Dream. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1990. ISBN: 0395533082


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask the learners if they have ever been to a beach, river, or other body of water. Discuss what it was like. Ask what would be different if the water had a strange smell or color, or had pollution in it?

    Tell them you are going to read aloud Just a Dream by Chris Van Allsburg. In the story, Walter has a dream about problems in the natural world. Tell them to listen for what he did as a result of his dream.

    Read aloud Just a Dream.

  2. Discuss how Walter's actions and attitudes about his environment changed from the beginning of the story to the end. 

  3. Questions for discussion:

    • If you had a dream similar to Walter's, what would you do differently?
    • Why do you think the dream changed his attitude?
    • What are examples of things from his dream that could really happen to our environment? Why do you think that? 
    • What actions can we take so things don't get so bad or so things can improve?
  4. Define and discuss philanthropy:

    • Voluntary action for the common good (well-being shared by the whole group of people)
    • Giving one's time, talents, and treasures
    • Selfless rather than selfish (Discuss the difference between selfishness and selflessness in VanAllsburg's story)
    • Discuss examples of philanthropy in the book.
    • Do you think everyone has a responsibility to contribute to the common good?
    • Differentiate between private and public land/resources in the story. (Walter cleaned up the public area by the fire hydrant in retrieving his wrapper, and he sorted and recycled his own private trash.)
  5. Introduce the idea that there is public land that we all share and enjoy, including beaches, rivers, and parks. There are also organizations in the community that support this public land. These nonprofit environmental organizations exist to keep the earth healthy rather than to make money. Name some examples and talk about the work of some local and national environmental nonprofits. 

  6. Point out that Walter took pride in his environment and acted as a philanthropist to make a difference in the future of the environment. Tell the learners that they can do the same by participating in environmental stewardship.

    Ask how we could apply this story to our own local parks. What could you do? What can we do together? What can we do to support the work of a nonprofit environmental group?

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.
      3. Benchmark E.4 Define and give examples of selfishness and selflessness.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.7 Describe the concept of competing self-interest.
    3. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe how citizens organize in response to a need.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.5 Recognize the wise use of resources as <i>stewardship</i>.
      2. Benchmark E.7 Define and describe private property and common resources.
    2. Standard PCS 04. Philanthropy and Geography
      1. Benchmark E.2 Identify and describe how civil society organizations help the community.
    3. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.2 Discuss an issue affecting the common good in the classroom or school and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.
  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.