Philanthropy--Why?: Penny Drive

6, 7, 8

This lesson focuses on motivations for giving. Learners explore the reasons why they might give treasure and what the impact of their giving might be upon the recipients of their giving.

Focus Question: How do our decisions about spending affect the common good?

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Fifty-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • define philanthropy.
  • identify philanthropic acts.
  • interpret motivations for giving from a piece of literature.
  • explore motivations of their individual giving and compare them to the motivations of others.
  • hold a collection.
  • Student copies for half of the class of Handout One: Philanthropic Acts? I
  • Student copies for half of the class of Handout Two: Philanthropic Acts? II
  • Student copies of Handout Three: The Story

Reflection plays a very important role in promoting student learning. The following suggested activities are ways to help students reflect on their learning after they have participated in a service event.  Choose one or more of the activities most appropriate to the service event and your students.

ACTIVITY ONE: Give each student four sticky notes. On one of the sticky notes have the students write their response, using one or two words, to the question, “How did you feel about participating in the event prior to actually being involved?” On the second sticky note have the students write their response to the question, “How did you feel while being involved in this Event?” On the third sticky note, have the students respond to this question, “How did you feel after the Event was over?” And on the fourth sticky note have the students respond to the question, “What could I do differently in the future?” 
Place the following headings on the display board: Before, During, After, Future. Have students come and place their sticky notes under the appropriate heading on the display board.  Allow time for them to walk around to view and read the comments of others. Encourage them to note similarities and differences.  Involve the class in a discussion using the prompt,”What did you learn from reading everyone’s comments?”

ACTIVITY TWO: Give each student three sheets of multi-colored construction paper, one sheet of white construction paper, a pair of scissors, and a black marker (assorted colored pens are optional).  Using one of the sheets of multi-colored construction paper for each shape, ask each student to draw and cut out the following shapes: 1) a head, with a “light bulb” drawn in it; 2) a body, with a “heart” drawn in it, and; 3) limbs-two arms and two legs.  Ask the students to think about what the “light bulb” and “heart” might represent. (NOTE: The ‘light bulb” is an icon often identified with “ideas”. The “heart” as an icon is often identified with “feelings.”) Ask the students what they think the “arms and legs” might represent. (NOTE: Arms and legs are often associated with going places and doing things.) Now have the students use their sheet of white construction paper to cut out three “word bubbles.” (See Example) Have them write words or phrases that represent how their head (mind), their body (heart) and their arms and legs were involved in the Event.

Said another way, one ‘bubble’ for the head (what they thought about the Event),
one “bubble” for the body (how they felt about the Event), and one ‘bubble’ for the limbs (what they did for the Event).  When completed, call the first student to the bulletin board-type display area entitled  “Join the Crowd” (or some similarly appropriate title).Have each student, in turn, pen his/her designed cutout head along with its “bubble” on the display board. Share some of the responses. Now have each student come and pen his/her cutout body beneath their head along with its bubble. Share some of the responses. Finally, have each student pen his/her designed cutout arms and legs on their body along with the “bubble.” Share some of the responses. Have students walk past the ‘crowd’ and read the “bubble”. Discuss findings, comparisons, and final thoughts.

ACTIVITY THREE: Assign the students to one of four groups and distribute a white sheet of square paper, preferably 21.5” x 21.5” (the official size of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd base in Major League Baseball), a pair of scissors for each student, a glue stick/paste and a variety of magazines and newspapers.  Tell them that they are to go look through these magazines and newspapers to cut out pictures and /or words that could be used to describe their involvement in the recent service project. Once they have cut out as many pictures or words as they can, in the allotted time, as a group they are to decide which pictures and/or words will be included on their group base. Tell them to glue the pictures and/or words to their base.  When completed they are to offer their base for display in the area marked “Let’s Play Ball” or “Covering All the Bases,” etc (Note: You may wish to display the base in the traditional diamond shape to add more realism and invite interested students to complete the ballpark design. If time allows, ask the students how participating in this service project is like playing baseball/participating in sports.)

ACTIVITY FOUR: Using the name of the service project, have students brainstorm words or short phrases, the letters of which when properly placed, form some sort of crossword puzzle-like creation.  These words should ‘describe’ the activity, the feelings, and/or the impact of the Event for the individual student involved.   

When the students have each completed their own crossword puzzle, instruct them to draw an outline of the pattern around their words (See above), have them shade-in the interior of the form with a light color pencil or crayon, so as not to cover up the words, and then cut out the form along the outline. Display these crossword puzzles forms in an area entitled, “The Shape of Our Service” or “We’re in Great Shape”, “Join the Crowd” or etc.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Write the word ‘philanthropy’ on the display board and ask the learners to share what they know/might recall about the meaning of this word. Write their shared ideas on the display board, making certain that they understand that the word ‘philanthropy’ means the giving of time, talent, and treasure and taking action for the common good. Tell them that today they will examine various acts to determine if they are philanthropic.

  2. Divide the class into two equal groups, and if at all possible, separate these two groups far enough apart so that they will be unable to hear the conversation of the other group.

  3. Distribute Handout One: Philanthropic Acts? I to each of the learners in one of the groups and Handout Two: Philanthropic Acts? II to each of the learners in the other group.

  4. Have the learners read the instructions, and as a group, reach a consensus about whether or not each act is or is not one that could be considered a philanthropic. Have each group assign a spokesperson to report their decisions to the total class when it is reconvened.

  5. Reconvene the total class and identify the spokespersons. Tell them that you are going to call out the number of each act to be considered and ask the spokesperson to share only a “yes” or “no” for each act. Record these on the display board (for example): Group I Group II #1 Yes Yes #2 Yes No #3 Yes No #4 and so on…

  6. When each number has been called and a vote registered, begin by discussing those numbered acts where the votes are not the same. Have Group I share why they arrived at the decision they did and then have group II share why they arrived at the decision they did. (This will be the first time, hopefully, that the two groups will realize that though the acts are the same for each group, Group II has some additional information concerning a possible motivation for the act.)

  7. Complete all 12 acts in this manner, leaving it as open ended as possible. (Teacher Note: Despite what might result in a lively debate, allow the learners only enough time for discussion on each act, to get them thinking about the role motivation plays in acts of philanthropy, without requiring them to make a final determination as to whether or not each act is truly philanthropic or not.)

  8. Once all 12 acts have been shared and discussed, distribute Handout Three: The Story and have the learners read the story individually and as a class discuss what they think the story is trying to say.

  9. When the story has been read and briefly discussed, have the learners go back to their original voting sheets. Ask them, if taking into consideration the fact that what the grandfather told his grandson in this story is true, would it change any of their original votes /opinions about any of the 12 acts about whether they act were or were not philanthropic.

  10. Take a few minutes for those who are willing to share their reflections to do so.

  11. Now, have the class list as many reasons as they can for why students might be willing to contribute to a collection or fundraiser. Once this list is exhausted, have them reflect on what they think will be the motivation for them to personally become involved.

  12. Ending this class period, pose the following question to the learners, “Do you think the recipients of the proceeds collected in our drive will beconcerned about why each of you personally contributed to the drive?”


Learner involvement in the class discussions and the depth of understanding and seriousness evident in the sharing of opinions and personal reflections forms the basis for this assessment.

Cross Curriculum 

The class may hold a penny drive to raise money for a chosen cause. To hold the competition, each class or team competes against all others. Each team has a jar in a central location labeled with the team name and the charity they are raising money for. The idea is to earn the most money for your class or grade. In a penny war, teams try to collect the most pennies, and silver coins count against their total. This creates a competition where other teams try to sabotage the other teams by adding silver coins or dollar bills to the competitors' jars. The value of the coins count against the total, so a quarter subtracts 25 points from a jar of pennies. You can have two winners: one winner is the team that has the most points and another winner collects the highest monetary value.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define and give examples of the motivations for giving and serving.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.