Too Big a Task

3, 4, 5

Learners will compare and contrast the same act of philanthropy over two periods in time.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo to Three Thirty-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • compare and contrast an historical example of philanthropy with a modern example.
  • Information about Habitat for Humanity obtained from its home page
  • Information about Make a Difference Day from its USA Weekend home page
  • Pictures or blueprints of barns
  • Photographs of people working on a building site
  • Too Big a Task—Then and Now” (Attachment One)


  1. Anticipatory Set: Ask the class, “What do you think it feels like to wake up in the morning and know that this is the day something very special to you and your family will occur? Has that ever happened to you?” Discuss the responses.

  2. Ask learners what it takes to build a house today. After going through the steps that home building requires, ask students if they think it could be done alone, without help. Then ask learners what they think it was like when a family decided to build a barn one hundred and fifty years ago. What things were different about building then? Could the barn have been built alone?

    • Perhaps one of the learners will bring up the idea that there were special occasions called “barn raisings”. When these occurred, the entire community came together and put up the barn in a short time. Have learners discuss what they already know about barn raisings. Discuss the importance of “community” in such a situation.
    • Read the story that accompanies this lesson (“Too Big a Task—Then and Now,” Attachment One) of two boys in very different times and very different places. Ask learners to analyze and compare the boys’ feelings. Tying in the last lesson, ask them if there are any contrasts in the way each boy reacted.
    • Draw two intersecting circles (Venn diagram). In the middle section will be those characteristics in both stories that were the same (compare). The two outside circles will represent the differences (contrast). Let the left outside circle represent Thaddeus’ story and the right outside circle represent Chad’s story. Discuss what the philanthropic acts were in the story and ask learners if they were similar even though the stories cover very different periods of time. Were there clues in the story that hinted that this was not the first time each of these acts of philanthropy was done?
    • If it is possible, arrange for learners to visit a barn in order to see the enormity of the task of barn raising. A similar experience would be to have students visit a home building site.
    • After learners have noticed the similarities and differences in the stories, ask them to develop a list of analogies from the story.Examples might include: Breeches are to jeans as rooster is to alarm clock as barn raising is to Habitat for Humanity.
    • If possible, log on to the Internet and go to the Habitat for Humanity home page for a fact sheet and a list of 82 sites in Michigan where homes have been built or the Make A Difference Day home page. It is also possible to read their newsletters and find out about future projects.
    • Divide the class into teams of two. Give each team one sheet of paper. Cut each paper in half lengthwise and ask each member of the team to draw a cover for one of the two stories that make up “Too Big a Task--Then and Now.” Be careful to be authentic in the illustrations. When each team is finished, tape the two halves together again to represent the completed book cover.

Have each student complete the eight questions related to philanthropy using the story studied in this lesson. Answer the eight philanthropy questions for both parts of the story. What is the need? Who has the need? Who is in the community? Who fills the need? What talent or treasure was given or shared? What did it cost to fill the need? What goodness does the community experience from that giving or sharing? What is the reward for the one who shared? What would have happened if the need had not been met?

Cross Curriculum 

As part of the extension activities, learners will visit a barn or other new construction site in order to see the enormity of the task of barn raising or general construction. Obtain a video or personal interview, or arrange for an on-site visit involving Habitat for Humanity or other community voluntary action such as a Make a Difference Day project, held each year on the last weekend in October, to give learners a clearer understanding of philanthropic activity.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe how citizens organize in response to a need.