Stewards of the Sand

3, 4, 5

The purpose of this lesson is to demonstrate to the learners that everyone has a responsibility to be good stewards of the Earth. 

PrintThree 45 – 50 minute class periods

The learner will:

  • develop an understanding of the words philanthropy and stewardship.
  • create and carry out a plan for protecting an area of the school or community.
  • reflect on the project after the completion of the service learning activity.
  • articulate what it means to be good stewards of the Earth.
  • Resource books about deserts
  • Any materials needed to make presentations (Poster paper, colored markers, etc)
  • Copies of Plan for Improving a Public Area (Handout One) for each group
  • Trash bags
  • Plastic gloves - biodegradable if possible
  • Permission letter to travel off school grounds


  1. Day One:

  2. Write the words philanthropy and stewardship on the board.

  3. Ask: Does anyone know or remember what the word philanthropy means? (Giving time talent, and treasure, and taking action for the common good.) Ask: Does anyone remember what the word stewardship means? (The careful and responsible management of something.)

  4. Discuss with the learners ways that people can be good stewards of the land Ask: Why is it important to take care of regions like the Sanoran desert? (These areas are public areas that are used for animal and human habitation and recreation. They contain valuable resources such as oil, gas, minerals, and vegetation that can be used as a food source and for medical purposes. People that live in the area, or use the area, must be good stewards of the natural resources especially water)

  5. Ask: Are there other areas that need to be taken care of besides deserts? (Parks school grounds, lakes and rivers etc.)

  6. Explain to the learners that they are going to look at how people can be good stewards of the land by researching public areas in their school or community in need of attention. They will be volunteering their time to help with the project. Teacher Note: Before sending learners out to the school grounds or out into the community, be sure that you have arranged for adult supervision of each group and obtained any parent/guardian permission that is required by your school.

  7. Ask: How do you feel about cleaning a public area in the school or community? Allow the students to respond without judging their answers. Some learners may feel, at this point, that they do not want to “clean up” after other people. Discuss why it is important for everyone to take care of public areas and that it is their civic responsibility to act for the common good.

  8. Arrange the class into heterogeneous groups of four or five learners. (In the interest of time, this could be the same grouping that was used in the previous lesson.)

  9. Assign each group a public area of the school grounds or community. (The teacher should check all areas first to be sure that it is an area that needs some attention. Areas might include public areas of the school or community that need to be “adopted” for “clean up activity,” school or community areas that might need to have repairs made to equipment. Clean up plans should be coordinated with the appropriate school and/or community authorities.

  10. Explain to the learners that in order to have an effective project they will need to develop a plan. Using worksheet Plan for Improving a Public Area (See Handout One) learners will develop a plan designed to improve the area that they have been assigned.

  11. Day Two:

  12. Discuss safety procedures for the clean-up with the learners. (staying with their group, using the plastic gloves supplied, not touching any hazardous waste products such as broken glass or syringes mark these items for an adult to clean up). All groups should have trash bags and plastic gloves. These can usually be obtained through the school’s food services or purchased in grocery stores. Environmental nonprofit organizations may also provide these supplies.

  13. Travel to the clean-up area(s) and do the clean-up as planned

  14. Day Three:

  15. Allow the learners to share what they have done to improve the area that they were assigned.

  16. Guide them to the understanding that it is everyone’s civic responsibility to help take care of public areas. (Picking up trash when they are in a park, telling someone if equipment is broken so that it isn’t a hazard to others, advocating for others to take responsibility, etc.)

  17. Allow learners to begin their letters to next year’s learners in the class (see Assessment). They should include information about the activity, what the next class can do the following year to improve the activity, what were the best parts of the activity and how they were behaving as stewards of the land. Letters that are not completed in this class period should be continued for homework and returned the next day or class period.


Reflection: Learners are to participate in reflection discussion after the service is completed. Evaluation: Learners will write individual letters to the learners in next year's class about their activity and tell them what to do next year to improve the activity and what the best parts of this unit were. Celebration: Learners may create invitations to parents/guardians or other classes to view what was done to demonstrate good stewardship of the “land” (public areas). If return travel to these areas is difficult, a before/after slide presentation may be done.

Cross Curriculum 

The learners will develop and implement a plan for taking care of a public area of the school or community. Learners will reflect on the project at the conclusion of the service learning activity.

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.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.9 Identify the "commons" in the school and neighborhood.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark E.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 04. Raising Private Resources
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a service plan.
    3. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark E.2 Evaluate progress on the service-learning project before, during, and after the project.