Worthless to Me, Priceless to You

6, 7, 8

The purpose of this lesson is to plan and carry out a service-learning project in which students give something that is needed or wanted by someone else without any expectation of receiving something in return. They use the South Asian Indian folktale "The Drum" as a model.


PrintTwo 45-Minute Lessons, Plus Time to Complete Service Project

The learner will:

  • identify items that the class can give to others.
  • plan and implement a service project to give these items to others.
  • set goals and collect data about items donated, then graph the data.
  • reflect on the service experience.
  • a read-aloud copy of the Indian folktale "The Drum" /resources/drum
  • student copies of handouts What Can I Give?
  • student copies of Handout Two: Project Plan
  • teacher copy of Handout Three: Who's Doing What?
  • Optional: student copies of handout: Read and Give Event Kit (If doing a book drive event, this handout can serve as a model of one teacher-driven program.)
  • student copies of Letter to Parent/Guardian, as needed, to serve as a model for a school/home communication
Home Connection 

Learners share the goals of the project with their parent or guardian, who will help them identify items to donate. Handout Five may be adapted and sent home to inform parents/guardians about the project.


Folktales from India: A Selection of Oral Tales from Twenty-two Languages, selected and edited by A. K. Ramanujan. (New York: Pantheon Books, 1991), 226-27. ISBN-10: 0679748326  ISBN-13: 978-0679748328. A copy of the folktale "The Drum" can be found at: /resources/drum


  1. Day One:

    Anticipatory Set: Ask the students to read or recall the folktale "The Drum" and discuss the philanthropic concepts in the folktale. Lead a class discussion (like a prewriting brainstorm) about how this folktale could be changed and updated to modern times. The students may propose ideas for how the main character in an updated version could show compassion for others' needs by sharing time, talent, or treasure for the sake of others.

  2. Ask the students if they think they have anything of value (goods or services) to give. Encourage them to think about things they are finished using that may have value to someone else. Have students work independently to complete Handout One: What Can I Give?

  3. Move the students into six groups and assign each group one of the issues from Handout One. The group discusses the resources they have to address their assigned need.

  4. Meet together as a whole class and have students share their ideas about treasures they can give to others.

  5. Decide on a class service project based on these discussions. The service project should involve donating items (or services) that have value to someone else. Allow the students to lead the discussion and make the final choice about the project. Students should come to a consensus on one project. They may use voting or another method.

  6. Lead a class discussion about organizing the project using Handout Two: Project Plan. This may be completed as a whole class or by each student.

  7. Day Two

  8. Work with the students to delegate tasks and responsibilities for the service project using Handout Three: Who's Doing What? The teacher may fill this out or have students fill in their own, or simply use the worksheet as a guideline and write the students' tasks on the board.

  9. Help the students set goals and determine a system for counting items and collecting data.

  10. Handout Four: Read and Give Event Kit provides an example of a book drive with a partner from the community. This is a good model, but the event should be driven by student voice and student choices.

  11. Each student takes responsibility for his/her tasks over the course of the service-learning project.

  12. Adapt the family communication letter to get parent/guardian permission for the event (see Handout Five: Letter to Parent/Guardian).

  13. Students may develop a project timeline to determine the duration of the service-learning project, including deadlines for completing tasks and project start/end dates.

  14. As the items come in, have the students categorize and record the data. Students graph the data using charts and graphs appropriate for the project. This data can be used to communicate with other participants and the community about the success of the project.

  15. Post-Service Reflection

  16. After the project is completed, reflect on the results (data and impact on recipients and self) as a whole class and through writing.

  17. Whole class/group reflection: Put up signs around the room with the names of musical instruments (drum, violin, penny whistle, trumpet, flute, harp). Tell the students to stand by the instrument that best represents how they felt about giving to others in the service project. Give the groups at each sign five minutes to tell why they felt that instrument and what style of music best characterized their experience.

  18. Writing reflection: Write about how your service-learning project was similar to the boy's experience in "The Drum."

  19. Reflect as a group discussion about how the group can continue to serve others by sharing things that have value to others.


Teacher observation Writing assignment/journal entry You may also use the following rubric to have students assess themselves: 1 2 3 4 My Score Brainstorm: I did not contribute, or contributed very little to the project brainstorm. I contributed some, but not much, to the brainstorm. I contributed somewhat to the brainstorm. I contributed a lot to the brainstorm. Effort: I showed no effort and did not care about this project. I showed minimal effort because I cared little about this project. I showed some effort, but could have showed more. I gave 100% effort and cared greatly about this project. Project task: I did not complete my project task. I only completed part of my project task. I completed most of my project task. I completed my project task entirely. Follow through None of my objectives were completed. Some of my objectives were completed. Most of my objectives were completed. All of my objectives were completed.

Cross Curriculum 

Learners will identify, plan, and participate in a project that involves sharing gently used items that have value to someone else. For example: Students may participate in a book drive, in which they donate and ask others to donate gently used books to someone who has not yet read the book. Students may participate in a clothing drive, in which they donate clothing they have outgrown to others who are in need of clothing.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities and research.
    3. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Provide a needed service.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Describe the goals of the project and their impact.
      3. Benchmark MS.3 Describe the task and the student role.
    4. Standard VS 04. Raising Private Resources
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Develop a service plan.
    5. Standard VS 05. Integrating the Service Experience into Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Describe different processes of program evaluation.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Evaluate progress on the service-learning project before, during, and after the project.
      3. Benchmark MS.3 Identify outcomes from the service.