Make a Difference in Life

6, 7, 8

Learners will investigate “Make a Difference Day,” and local community or state philanthropic organizations. The information about the organizations will be presented to the class and a class decision will be made about how the students can participate with the chosen group for “Make a Difference Day.” Note: This lesson is appropriate for any day of service and not limited to this October national event.

Lesson Rating 
PrintFive Fifty-Minute Class Periods

The learners will:

  • study, research and identify a philanthropic organization.
  • investigate the history of “Make a Difference Day.”
  • write a report, including a description of the organization and ways it helps others, the community, our country or individuals from other cultures.
  • present findings to classmates.
  • evaluate all findings and select a project.
  • plan and carry out the project in preparation for "Make a Difference Day" or any day of service.
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework:Develop a list in answer to the question: What community philanthropic organizations would our family support with our time, talent and/or treasure and why?

  • USA Weekend. "Make a Difference Day,"


  1. Anticipatory Set: Students will be divided into groups of four and asked to list people and events that have made a difference in their lives. They will share this with the class. Ask students, “Given what we have studied about philanthropy, do you think you can make a positive difference in anyone else’s life and for the common good?” Discuss ways youth, grades 6-8, can be effective volunteers. Discuss reasons for giving and volunteering. If necessary, review the motivations for giving.

  2. Ask students to name groups they discovered in Lesson Two: People Who Make a Difference that they know helped others, and list them.

  3. Pass out lists of philanthropic groups in their local community or state. Have students highlight those they would like to know more about and would be interested in helping on “Make a Difference Day.”

  4. Discuss “Make a Difference Day.” Pass out copies of U.S.A. Weekend’s handout from the web. Read this with the students and ask them to talk with their group about past activities as described in the article, and interest in participation.

  5. Each group of four will narrow their interests to one group that they believe would benefit from their class’s time, treasure and talent. They will write a description of the group they are interested in helping, and present the information to classmates in a persuasive speech about the group.

  6. Students listen to each presentation and list ways they can help. These will be shared and posted.

  7. Students will be given opportunity to give closing comments of need and observations.

  8. The class selects a group to help “Make a Difference.”

  9. Students contact that group and determine their activities with that group on “Make a Difference Day.”

    Instructor’s Note: Discuss with your class the sensitivities and volunteer expectations at the site. You may have to determine health and safety needs. Well before the activity, obtain all equipment necessary for success on site. Some sites may require safety glasses and gloves or boots ie. for environmental clean-up activity.

  10. Plan the service activities as a group, and follow up with a meaningful reflection activity.

  11. Provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate for an outside audience the impact of their day of service. This may be a display, written work, or performance.


Evaluate class discussions, teacher observations. Evaluate the writing and persuasive speeches by the students.

Cross Curriculum 

Students will participate in a service project together as a group.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Give political and historic reasons why civil society groups have formed in the nation and world.
    2. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Discuss a public policy issue affecting the common good and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.5 Describe the responsibility students have to act in the civil society sector to improve the common good.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities and research.