Spend, Save or Donate: Penny Drive

K, 1, 2

This lesson will introduce learners to the concept of raising resources to help others. The learners will discover reasons why people choose to donate.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Thirty to forty minute class period
The learner will:
  • differentiate between the vocabulary words, spend, save, and donate.
  • realize that s/he can make different choices with money.
  • pennies (pennies used can be donated to a local charity)
  • large chart with headings: spend, save and donate
  • different color markers

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.


Provide the students with one of four different flower cut-outs of various colors.  Have the students write, or tell you what to write, on each of their flowers that indicate what they did during the service-learning activity.  When each student has something written on their flower, display all the flowers placing them in a reflection “garden” entitled “Planting Helping Seeds”, “Helping Blossoms,” “Fun Flowers”, etc. When all the flowers have been "planted in the garden" read to the class what is written on each flower. Draw a comparison between flowers making the world more beautiful and their caring deeds making the world more beautiful.

Provide students with a cutout outline of a fish.  Have the students color their fish and then draw a face on their fish that represents how they personally felt when they were helping during the service-learning activity.  In turn, have each of the students share the feeling that their “fish-face” represents.  As the students share their “fish face” have them place their fish on a display entitled “Sea of Feelings”, “Fish Face Tank,” School of Fish”, or etc.  Ask the students to conclude what the majority of all the fish are ‘feeling’ and why others might be ‘feeling’ differently. Draw a comparison between how fish seem to like ‘schooling together’ to do things and the class coming together to do things like the service project.


Have each student bring their favorite doll, or stuffed animal to class.  (NOTE: Be sure to have a few extra of these items on hand in the classroom for use by students who forget or cannot bring an item.)  Ask the students to share their feelings about their doll or stuffed animal. Remind them of the service project and ask them to share how they felt about being involved in the event. Help them to see that the feelings they have for their favorite doll or stuffed animal are in some ways alike and in some ways different from their feelings about being involved in the event, but that for the most part these are all “feel good” feelings.

Assign each student a partner.  Have them stand back to back.  While in this position, ask the students to take turns sharing with their partner their responses to the prompt, “What did you do during the service project?” After each student has had a chance to share with his or her partner, still in the back-to-back position, ask them to share their responses to a second prompt, “Do you think what you did made a difference?”  After an appropriate amount of time, have the partners face each other and respond to the prompt.  “How do you feel now that the event is over?” After returning to their seats, ask the students which way of sharing with each other was easier and why.  (Note: depending on the maturity of the group, explain that many times it’s easier and more helpful if we “face” people and situations rather than ‘turn our backs on them.’) 


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Show students a pile of 100 pennies. Count the pennies (by 1s, 5s and/or 10s as appropriate to the curriculum) as a class so that the learners will know that you are working with 100 pennies. Remind them that the 100 pennies represent one dollar. Have the learners brainstorm what they might purchase with pennies. Suggest that for today’s lesson they plan to buy candy and a toy.

  2. Create a chart with three columns. Label the columns: Spend, Save, and Donate. It might be helpful for students to visualize this by putting a picture of candy and a picture of an inexpensive toy, as well as the words, in the appropriate column headings. (If using a floor chart invite the students to sit in a circle on the floor around it.)
  3. Discuss the meaning of each word:
    • Spend: to pay out money in exchange for good or services.
    • Save: to set aside money for later use.
    • Donate: to give or present something to a charitable organization or other good cause - charity.
  4. Ask them to tell you what they think each word means and have a brief discussion about each, including examples from the children of each action. Tell the children that when a person decides in advance how to use their money it is called a budget.
  5. Ask the children to imagine that the 100 pennies is their allowance per day and the class will be deciding together on the budget, how to use it. Suggest as a beginning point that they put 75 pennies for candy in the “spend” column and 25 pennies in the “save” for a toy to purchase later on. If appropriate, illicit from the children how long it would take to save for the toy if they put 25 pennies a day in the save column. Ask a student to help the teacher put the actual pennies on the chart along with the written number. (See below)
  6. 100 pennies = $1.00




    75 pennies for candy 25 pennies to save for a toy that costs 200 pennies or $2.00 50 pennies for candy 25 pennies 25 pennies

  7. Now ask them to look at the chart again and talk about the empty column, “donate.” Why might a person want to plan to donate when creating their budget? Where might the money be donated? How would they feel to donate some of their “treasure”?
  8. Now ask the students to suggest ways to rearrange the pennies so that some are in the “donate” column. Write the numbers on the chart to note the new arrangement. Ask the students to think about how taking pennies from the “spend” or “save” columns effects their plans for that money - the opportunity cost. (They could buy less candy or it would take longer to save for the toy.)
  9. Invite students to rearrange the coins several more times, as time and interest permit, each time asking them to explain their choices and the opportunity costs (less money to spend on candy, time needed to save for the toy, ability to help those in need).
  10. Teacher Note: Using different color markers to write the amounts for each arrangement will help the children distinguish each budget suggestion.

  11. As the exercise progresses, model vocabulary, and encourage the students to use, appropriate words: budget, donate, spend, save, philanthropy, philanthropist, need, opportunity cost.
Cross Curriculum 
Hold a penny drive to raise resources to support the work of a local nonprofit.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.2 Define philanthropy and charity.
      2. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
  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.