Rubbing Elbows with Plants

K, 1, 2

The students will analyze the characteristics of a volunteer. With the help of volunteers, the learners will make note cards and transplant their flowers into their decorated pots. These items will be distributed later to senior citizens.

Lesson Rating 
PrintFour Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learners will:

  • make stationery using a leaf rubbing.
  • paint the clay pots to be given as gifts. Students planned their designs in Lesson One: Planting Phil’s Garden.
  • transplant flowers to the decorated pot.
  • write a letter or poem in a card to be given to a senior citizen.
  • discuss the characteristics of a volunteer and create a name poem using those characteristics.
  • Invite volunteers (family members or plant experts from the community) to help with transplanting on Day Four.
  • Crayons
  • Lightweight art paper (18# bond or lighter) of various solid colors
  • A variety of leaves
  • Examples of dried leaves, pressed flowers, leaf rubbings, photographs of flowers, and paintings or drawings of flowers
  • Blank chart paper, markers
  • Old newspapers to cover each student’s desk (or work outside)
  • Paint smocks or old shirts
  • One clay pot per student
  • Flowers in biodegradable pots planted in Lesson Two: Planting the Seeds of Knowledge
  • Potting soil and spades
  • Small- to medium-sized rocks for bottom of pots
  • Water for newly transplanted flowers
  • Paint and paintbrushes
  • Copies of Handout One: How to Pot Your Flowers
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework:In preparation for Day Four, the students go home the night before and ask their families to help them come up with a list of at least 10 volunteers that they have seen in action in the community. Learners should be ready to share their findings with the class the day of the brainstorming about volunteers.

  • Carle, Eric. The Tiny Seed. Aladdin Library, 2001. ISBN: 0689842449
  • Hoover, Anne B. and Janet Wakefield. The Word for Me is Philanthropy. Community Partnerships with Youth, Inc., 2002. This curriculum teaches children about the impact of giving. 
  • Demi. The Empty Pot. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1996. ISBN 0805049002
  • DiSalvo-Ryan, DyAnne. City Green. New York: Morrow Junior Books, 1998. ISBN: 068812786X
  • Heller, Ruth. The Reason for a Flower. Paper Star, 1999. ISBN: 0698115597
  • Hickman, Pamela. A Seed Grows: A first Look at a Plant’s Life Cycle. Kids Can Press, 1997. ISBN: 1550742000
  • Krauss, Ruth. The Carrot Seed. Harperfestival, 1993. ISBN: 0694004928
  • The Earth Works Group. 50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth. Bt Bound, 1999. ISBN: 0833544721
  • National Gardening: Kids



  1. Anticipatory Set: Before the learners arrive, position a leaf under a sheet of lightweight paper so that the students are not able to see the leaf. After students arrive, the teacher will begin rubbing the surface of the paper with the side of a crayon where the leaf is located. An impression of the leaf will begin to appear on the paper. (In order for all students to see, tape the leaf and paper to the board.)

    Day One

  2. Read some of the books about gardening and nature from the bibliographical references below. Talk with the students about the beauty of nature.

  3. Discuss with the students different ways to preserve nature. One way is to capture it in pictures, such as a leaf rubbing. Directions for ways to preserve leaves and flowers listed below can be found online.

  4. drying

  5. pressing

  6. rubbing

  7. photographing

  8. drawing

  9. Give each student a sheet of lightweight colored paper to make a piece of stationery. The students fold the paper in half, creating a blank greeting card. After opening the paper up, each student creates a leaf rubbing using the side of a crayon. The student places a leaf under the paper and rubs the crayon on the paper until the imprint of the leaf shows up. The students may add borders and details to the card to make it more attractive.

  10. On this and other days, have students take turns taking pictures of the events in the unit.

    Day Two

  11. Tell the students that they will be writing a note to give along with the potted flower to someone at a local retirement facility. Brainstorm ideas as a class

  12. Give each student a piece of rough-draft paper to write a letter or poem to include in the note with the potted flower. Use the writing process to edit and revise the note. They write their final copy on the inside of the leaf-rubbing stationery.

    Day Three

  13. Cover student desks with newspaper. Students need paint shirts to protect their clothing during the painting activity.

  14. The teacher places a clay pot on each student’s desk. Students write their names on the bottom of their pots with marker.

  15. Provide paints and paint brushes for decorating the clay pots. Students made a plan for the design in Lesson One: Planting Phil’s Garden. They may change or add to that design. When they are done painting, put the pots on newspaper to dry.

    Day Four

  16. Write the word “volunteer” on the board. Give the following definition of a volunteer: a volunteer is a person who gives freely of his/her time, talent and treasure for the common good. Tell the students that volunteers are philanthropists

  17. Ask students if they can think of some people who are volunteers. Write the names of volunteers (people or groups) using one color of markers on chart paper. Discuss why those names were chosen. “What did they do as volunteers?” Write words that describe the volunteers in a different color—helpful, trustworthy, fun, interesting, hard-working, etc.

  18. Introduce the guest volunteers (landscapers, master gardeners, local flower experts or other volunteers). Explain to the class that these men and women are volunteers because they are giving their time and talent to help with today’s project.

  19. Cover the desks with newspaper or go outside for the transplanting. They should probably wear paint shirts to protect clothing for this activity.

  20. Students, with the help of the teacher and the volunteers, transplant their healthiest flowers from the biodegradable pots into the large, painted pots. Follow the written directions on Handout One: How to Pot Your Flowers.

  21. After completion of this activity, collect all unused materials and place the newly potted plants in one corner of the classroom for delivery later. Save the extra flowers for planting in a common area of the community.


The students will demonstrate their understanding of volunteers by writing an acrostic poem. Using the letters in the word VOLUNTEER, the students write words that describe the people that volunteer and the work they do. (See Handout Two: What Is a Volunteer? for a model poem.)

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a benefit of group cooperation.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
      3. Benchmark E.5 Identify one local citizen who has helped the community through giving and/or service.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.2 Discuss the importance of respect for others.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Demonstrate listening skills.
  2. 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.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe the task and the student role.