It's Philanthropy

3, 4, 5

Students gain awareness and understanding of philanthropy through song, a visit from a community leader, and realistic fiction.  Students demonstrate this understanding in discussion, writing, and art (making placemats to donate to a soup kitchen).  These things are done in anticipation of a visit to a local soup kitchen (later in the unit).

PrintThree Fifty-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • define and give examples of philanthropy (in family and community).
  • listen and respond to a community leader who visits the classroom.
  • write a thank-you note.
  • sing a philanthropic song.
  • create a placemat.
  • complete a KWL chart.
  • student copies or overhead copy of Handout One: It's Philanthropy song lyrics
  • half sheets of paper or student journals
  • overhead projector and pens
  • overhead copy of Handout Two: Philanthropy KWL Chart
  • chart paper and markers for each group of three students
  • read-aloud copy of Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan (see Bibliographical References)
  • student copies of Handout Four: Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen Questions
  • apron and soup bowl and spoon (costume)
  • 12" x 18" inch construction paper
  • markers or colored pencils
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent/Student Homework: Day One: At home, have students tell their families about philanthropy and talk about the ways their family gives back to the community. Have the students share their ideas in school the following day. Day Two: Give each student an index card to bring home. Each student, with the help of his or her family, writes a questionto ask the visiting director of the soup kitchen. Have the students turn in these cards the following morning.

  • DiSalvo-Ryan, DyAnne.  Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen.  New York:  Harper Trophy, 1997.  ISBN:  0688152856


  1. Teacher Note:

  2. A classroom visit from the director of your neighborhood soup kitchen is planned for Day Three. Please make arrangements for this in advance. Tell the director that you want him/her to speak about the guests, the funding, how volunteers help, why people choose to volunteer, and what the kitchen does to preserve the dignity of the guests.

  3. In this lesson and unit, you will refer to a non-profit organization that feeds the hungry such as a soup kitchen, food bank, food pantry or a church. Throughout the unit, please use whatever term or name is appropriate for your community.

  4. Anticipatory Set:

    Begin the lesson by distributing/displaying the lyrics to the song "It's Philanthropy" (see Handout One).Tell the students that today they are going to learn about philanthropy. Tell them to listen to the lyrics of this song for the meaning of philanthropy. Teacher sings the song, encouraging the students to join in the singing as they read along.

  5. After singing the song, have students write down on a half sheet of paper or in their journals what they think philanthropy is and what questions they have about it.

  6. Have students turn to a partner and read to each other what they wrote.

  7. Display the KWL chart on the overhead projector. As volunteers share their writing with the whole class, fill in the K and W sections of the chart with their statements and questions.

  8. Write the following definition of philanthropy on the board or overhead: giving or sharing time, talentand treasure or taking action for the common good.

  9. Tell the students that they will work cooperatively in groups to complete the next assignment. Divide the class into groups of three and assign the following three roles: The "materials captain" gathers and collects materials for the group. The "recorder" writes the ideas of the group members. The "facilitator" reports the group's ideas to the class.

  10. Tell students they have 15 minutes to complete the following assignment: On chart paper, list at least five examples of families supporting, giving, and sharing for the common good of their community.

  11. After 15 minutes, have each facilitator report to the class their list of ideas.

  12. End the lesson by having students sing "It's Philanthropy" together.

  13. Day Two:

  14. Tell the students that sometimes people need a little help because they are not able to feed themselves or their families. A soup kitchen is a place in the community where people can go for a hot meal for free (or a small fee). Ask the students whether they think it would be a warm and inviting place or a sad place. Tell them you are going to read a book about a soup kitchen and a person who works there. Tell the students to listen for Uncle Willie's attitude and the atmosphere of the soup kitchen. 

  15. Introduce and read the book Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan (see Bibliographical References). Explain to students that the soupkitchen is a non-profit organization. Ask them to think about where the money to run a soup kitchen might come from.

  16. After reading, have the students describe Uncle Willie and the atmosphere of the soup kitchen. Encourage them to talk about their feelings about the soup kitchen.

  17. Pass out copies or put on the overhead the questions on Handout Four: Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen Questions. Students should write their answers in complete sentences. Allow 10 minutes for writing.

  18. Have students share their responses to the questions with a partner. Then, discuss each question as a whole group. Talk about the philanthropy in the story.

  19. Get out the KWL chart started the first day. Ask whether the students have learned anything about philanthropy that you can add to the L section of the chart. Write their ideas on the chart.

  20. Pass out one index card to each student for a homework assignment. Tell the students that they should write a question on the card for the director of a local soup kitchen. They may ask their families for help with the question. (Prompt: What would you like to ask Uncle Willie?).

  21. Day 3:

    Note: Collect the homework from the students so you can read through the questions before your guest arrives. Pass back the questions (with comments, if necessary) so the students can ask their questions after the guest makes an initial presentation.

    For a dramatic introduction, stand in front of the class wearing an apron and carrying a bowl and spoon. Tell the students that they will be meeing someone today who has something to do with the way you are dressed. Allow them to guess the connection before you introduce the director of the local soup kitchen.

  22. The director of a local soup kitchen tells the students about the soup kitchen and how it relates to philanthropy.

  23. Allow the students to ask questions that were not covered in the presentation.

  24. With the director's assistance, brainstorm a list of needs for the soup kitchen. Discuss how the students could be philanthropists by helping meet these needs.

  25. Thank the director of the soup kitchen for his/her visit. After the director leaves, tell the students to write thank-you letters, including a sentence telling what they appreciated about the presentation.

  26. As they finish their letters, pass out construction paper so students can create placemats communicating the key ideas they have learned about philanthropy. On their placemats they should include a definition of philanthropy as well as an illustration of someone being philanthropic. Tell the students that these will be laminated and donated to the soup kitchen. The artwork should reflect these ideas in respectful ways: applying their best work and showing sensitivity for the people who will use it.


Teacher will assess student understanding of philanthropy through participation in discussions, homework, the group writing assignment, and the placemat. For an additional assessment, have students write an essay in response to the following question: What can Uncle Willie and his nephew teach us about philanthropic responsibility and the common good? (See Handout Three: Essay Rubric for guidelines and scoring.)

Cross Curriculum 

Students make placemats which they donate to the soup kitchen.

Read about the service-learning project called Lunches of Love by elementary school students from Michigan who were taught using this It's Philanthropy lesson to guide student learning and action.

“I want my students to learn how to give back to their community. Many times, when thinking about this I realized that the children are not vested in it. At our school, we do a lot of money or item collections. The kids are not directly involved in the projects. I want them to realize that they are part of the community and they can make a difference,” said elementary teacher Ms. Ferris.

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. 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.
    3. Standard DP 03. Names and Types of Organizations within the Civil Society Sector
      1. Benchmark E.2 Name an example of a civil society charitable organization.
    4. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe how citizens organize in response to a need.
  2. 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. Standard PCS 04. Philanthropy and Geography
      1. Benchmark E.2 Identify and describe how civil society organizations help the community.
  3. 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.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.