Purposeful Acts of Kindness

3, 4, 5

Students respond to a book with reflections on the traditions of philanthropy and quiltmaking. They define purposeful acts of kindness and perform random acts of kindness for a week. This lesson includes an optional service project of making a quilt to give away. 

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Thirty to Forty-Five Minute Class Period; two additional periods if the quilting bee is used

The learner will:

  • identify a community need, make a plan of action and carry out the plan.
  • cooperatively complete a quilt.
  • write a reflective piece on their particular purposeful act of kindness.
  • candies
  • raisins
  • nuts
  • scraps of fabric from old clothing
  • sewing needles
  • thread
  • quilt batting
  • fabric for quilt back
  • yarn
  • bread slices (optional)
  • graham crackers (optional)
  • peanut butter (optional)
  • frosting (optional)
  • birdseed (optional)


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Tell students that both quilt-making and philanthropy are traditions. Traditions are like the threads of a piece of woven fabric. Together they help form strong, healthy communities. Read one of the philanthropy-related quilt stories referenced below.

  2. Quilts have a rich history in different cultures, both symbolic and usefulness. In some cases making quilts involved a type of philanthropy: donating, collaborating, and sharing with the family and community.

  3. Philanthropy includes doing purposeful kind acts for the sake of others. The definition is "giving time, talent, or treasure, or taking action for the common good." 

    • Write the phrase “purposeful ast of kindness” on the chalkboard. Go over each word in the phrase, making sure students clearly understand their meanings. Ask for examples of what a “purposeful act of kindness” might be. 
    • Tell students that some people perform acts of kindness anonymously. Discuss, “Why would someone perform a kindness and not let others know about it?" 
    • Brainstorm ideas for kind acts and challenge students to do one of these acts in the next week. Ask them to write down their idea in the form of a statement of intent. Then come back and reflect on that later in the week. 
  4. Optional Quiltmaking Activity:

    Making a quilt and giving it away to someone who needs comfort or warmth is an example of a purposeful kind act. Ask, “Do you think that there may be a need for quilts and blankets today? In our community? How can they help? How could we find out for sure?” Discuss how to find out about need (contact nonprofits who give blankets to youth and families). Use the internet to investigate a community need for quilts. Project Linus is one nonprofit that helps people donate quilts. 

  5. Students will use a decision-making model to decide whether they wan to make blankets and where they want to donate them. 

  6. Blankets may be made by piecing together scraps of old clothing. In order for the class to have its own “quilting bee,” each of them could bring a scrap of fabric (possibly from a piece of old clothing) to contribute to a quilt. Give students responsibility for planning the quilt as much as possible. They can decide size, materials needed, different roles and responsibilities. 

    • Adult volunteers will be needed to pre-thread needles and guide students to use a simple running stitch. Children may then sew their blocks to each other's in strips, then sew the strips together to form the quilt top.
    • Adult volunteers will be needed to machine sew the top, batting and backing together and to pre-thread needles with yarn.
    • Students can tie the corners with yarn and, when finished, present the quilt(s) where needed.
  7. Quilt Stories with Philanthropic Concepts

    • Ernst, Lisa Campbell. Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1983. ISBN 0-688-01517-4
      Summary: While mending the awning over the pig pen, Sam discovers that he enjoys sewing the various patches together but meets with scorn and ridicule when he asks his wife if he could join her quilting club.
    • Flournoy, Valerie. The Patchwork Quilt. Middletown, Connecticut: Weekly Reader Books Edition, 1985. ISBN 0-803-70097-0
      Summary: Using scraps cut from the family's old clothing, Tanya helps her grandmother and mother make a beautiful quilt that tells the story of her family's life.
    • Hopkinson, Deborah. Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1993. ISBN 0-679-82311-5
      Summary: A young enslaved person stitches a quilt with a map pattern that guides her to freedom in the North.
    • Polacco, Patricia. The Keeping Quilt. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc., 1988. ISBN 0-671-64963-9
      Summary: A homemade quilt ties together the lives of four generations of an immigrant Jewish family, remaining a symbol of their enduring love and faith.


      Additional Resources

    • Coerr, Eleanor. The Josefina Story Quilt. New York: Harper & Rowe Publishers, 1985. ISBN 0-060-21348-5
      Summary: While traveling west with her family in 1850, a young girl makes a patchwork quilt chronicling the experiences of the journey and reserves a special patch for her pet hen, Josefina.
    • Johnston, Tony. The Quilt Story. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1985. ISBN 0-399-21009-1
      Summary: A pioneer mother lovingly stitches a beautiful quilt, which warms and comforts her daughter Abigail. Many years later another mother mends and patches it for her little girl.
    • Ringgold, Faith. Tar Beach. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1991. ISBN 0-590-46381-0
      Summary: A young girl dreams of flying above her Harlem home, claiming all she sees for herself and her family. This story is based on the author's quilt painting of the same name.
Cross Curriculum 

Use the Reflection and Rubric below to assess students on their understanding of the traditions of quilting and philanthropy. 

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.3 Participate in acts of democratic citizenship in the classroom or school, such as voting, group problem solving, classroom governance or elections.
  2. 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 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark E.1 Provide a needed service.