Reflecting on the Power of Volunteerism

6, 7, 8

In this lesson the students reflect on the power of volunteerism and gain some perspective on the immense impact volunteers make on our economy and society. They will determine what they contribute to their school community.

PrintTwo Fifty-Minute Class Periods, Plus Time for Presentations

The learners will:

  • calculate the amount of money he/she saved the school by volunteering.
  • calculate how much money volunteers save organizations.
  • prepare a skit to promote volunteerism.
  • present the skit to the class.
  • reflect on his/her individual impact on the school community.
  • List of local organizations with the number of volunteer hours (Local organizations that receive money from United Way have these figures that can be attained by calling the individual organizations.)
  • Projected copy of Value of Volunteer Hours (Handout One)
  • Projected copy of Where Does Your Money Go? (Handout Two)
Home Connection 

A challenge for homework: Figure out the monetary value each citizen would be giving to our county if they followed President Bush’s request to give 4,000 hours volunteering. Extra challenge: Using current population figures, calculate the total number of hours people in our country would be giving.


  1. Anticipatory Set: Count out in front of the class in real money whatever the current minimum wage is. Tell the class that their time is worth at least this amount per hour. Ask the students what they think the total would be if they got paid that amount for each of the hours they spent on the video project. (They can make a few guesses.) Tell them that although they were volunteers, the students’ work has a value to society. Volunteers throughout all communities have a monetary value. We’re going to talk about that value today.

  2. Have the students propose a method for figuring out how many hours the class spent on the video project. Then have them calculate the monetary value. Have the students either individually or with a partner figure out how many hours the class put into making and presenting the video for the fifth graders. Make sure they count all of the students, all of the time videotaping, editing, writing the script and presenting. After they have a figure, have them multiply it by the minimum wage. Go around the class and have them share their figures. Conduct a class discussion, asking these questions: “Are you surprised at how much money you saved the school? What other benefits do you think that the school received from you doing this project? Why might these figures be low?” (Most people earn more then the minimum wage, especially for skilled/specialized work.)

  3. Place on the overhead the prepared list of local organizations and the number of volunteer hours that they had for the last year (see Value of Volunteer Hours, Handout One). Briefly explain what each organization does for our community.

  4. Assign an organization to each pair of students. Using the minimum-wage figure, the students calculate how much those volunteers saved those organizations by giving their time. When the students are finished, they write the figure under the heading on the overhead that says “Value of Volunteer Hours.”

  5. Review the definition of philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent or treasure intended for the common good. Point out to the students that time and talent, as well as treasure, have a monetary value.

  6. Many organizations give money (treasure) in the form of grants that contribute to needs in the community. Put on the overhead Where Does Your Money Go? (See Handout Two). Discuss the different ways that this money is used to help their community and also society as a whole (the common good).

  7. Divide the students up into groups and challenge each group to plan a creative “commercial” (persuasive skit with props) encouraging people to volunteer. After they have all finished, allow class time for them to present their commercials. Schedule with other teachers for groups to present the skits to other classes.

  8. From the 2003 State of the Nation address by President Bush, write this quote on the board: “My call tonight is for every American to commit at least two years, or 4,000 hours, over the rest of your lifetime to the service of your neighbors and your nation.” Ask the class to propose why this would be a good thing for the country? What does the country get out of people volunteering? What does the country get besides money? What do volunteers get out of volunteering? Is it one-sided or do both parties gain something?


Assessment will be done by teacher observation of individual participation, group skits and completed figures for the list of organizations.

Cross Curriculum 

Student groups present their commercials to other classes. The commercials persuade others to contribute their time and talent for the benefit of the common good.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark MS.11 Describe the economic impact of volunteer labor and jobs.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Explain charitable giving in economic terms.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Describe the goals of the project and their impact.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Demonstrate the skills needed for the successful performance of the volunteer job.