You Can Make a Difference (1st Grade)

K, 1, 2

This lesson will teach children about volunteers and the difference they make in our world. The children will conclude that even they can volunteer and make a difference in their community.

PrintOne 30 minute class period

The learner will:

  • describe how volunteers and children can make a difference in a community.
  • illustrate how communities can change through volunteer efforts.

 Reflect on how volunteers make a community stronger.

  • Guthrie, Woody and Arlo Guthrie. This Land Is Your Land. 
  • Guthrie, Woody and Kathy Jakobsen. This Land Is Your Land


  1. Anticipatory Set: Play the song "This Land Is Your Land" and have the students sing along, using the book as a guide.

  2. Refer to the two pages in the book that begin with "In the shadow…" These two pages portray parts of a community that have some visible needs. Ask: What has happened? Why does it look like this? What could be done to improve this place? Accept reasonable answers.

  3. Turn to the two pages that begin with "Nobody living can ever stop me." Show the difference between this and the shadow page by flipping back and forth between the two pictures. Ask the learners to contrast what they see. If students do not mention it, note that in the second picture children are helping. "You don't have to be big to make a big difference."

  4. Have children point out the different jobs the people are doing to improve their community. Lead the students to recognize that they are volunteers who are giving their time and talent. Nobody can stop us from making a difference when we care about the "commons" and help each other.

  5. Tell students to fold a large sheet of construction paper in half. Ask them to imagine something they care about in their community -- that everyone has enough food, that people get along, that people respect differences. On one half of the paper, they draw a scene where the need they care about is not addressed. Where people are hurt, lonely, hungry, or community members aren't noticing the problem. On the other half, draw the same community where people have volunteered their time and talent to make a better place for everyone. 

  6. Display student work. Students walk around and look at all the images. Walk around with sticky notes listening to conversations. Write some of the student words and stick them on the corresponding artwork. 


Refect together about the needs and solutions shown in the art. Discuss what one next thing they can do to make their classroom or school better.

Cross Curriculum 

Students make a plan to help others at school.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. 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.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark E.2 Discuss an issue affecting the common good in the classroom or school and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.