Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Sharing our Talents
Lesson 1
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


A children's book provides an example of giving one’s talents (philanthropy) in Native American culture. They will analyze their own special gifts or talents and determine how the community can benefit from them.

Focus Question: How can we use our talents to benefit the common good?



One Forty-Five Minute Class Period (Fifteen Minute Class Period for the optional Extension)


The learner will:

  • define “talent.”
  • review the definition of philanthropist (giving of one’s time, talent and treasure).
  • explain how a talent can be used to help others.
  • illustrate his/her own special gift or talent.

Service Experience:

Although this lesson contains a service project example, decisions about service plans and implementation should be made by students, as age appropriate.
Learn more about the stages of service-learning.

Art from the heart: Celebrate students artistic talents and find a way to share these talents with others. Follow your students’ voices to find an organization or group of people who would appreciate a performance, greeting card, or homemade piece of art to brighten their day or let them know someone cares. This may be soldiers, veterans, elderly people in a retirement home, or a local child with a serious illness.


  • The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie dePaola (see Bibliographical References)
  • Brown craft paper or a brown paper shopping bag cut to resemble a piece of paper
  • Tempera paint
  • White glue and Sand (colored or uncolored) – if the optional Extension is done
  • Paint brushes (various sizes)
  • Paint cups or trays
  • Water cups
  • Paper towels
  • Paint shirts
  • Word processor, printer and paper
  • Chalk board or large paper

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:

Write the word “talent” on the board or large paper.  Ask the students what it means (the gift or special ability of a person).  Ask the students what “gift” means (the talent or special ability of a person).  Explain that the word “gift” can sometimes be another word for talent.

  • Introduce The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush (See Bibliographic Reference).  Tell the class that the story is about a Native American boy, Little Gopher, who has a special “gift” or “talent” that he shares with his “People.”  Explain that it is often the custom of Native Americans to refer to themselves as “the People” as they will hear in this story.

  • Set a listening purpose:  Have children listen to the story to find out how the boy shares his special “gift” or “talent” with his people. (He paints pictures of great hunts, of great deeds, of great Dream-Visions so that the people will always remember.)

  • Read the story to the students.  During the story, stop and check for understanding of “path,” (Little Gopher’s direction in life – the path he will follow), “Dream-Vision,” “shaman” (wise one) and “longed” (wished to be a hunter).

  • Lead a discussion of the following questions:

    • How was the boy different from the other children?(He couldn’t run and keep up with the other boys.)

    • What did the shaman tell the boy? (Hid path would not be the same as the other boys.  He had a special gift.)

    • What did Little Gopher learn in his Dream-Vision?(He would paint pictures that his people would remember forever.)

    • What did the pictures that he painted do for his people?(It gave them a picture of their history.)

    • What was his special gift to his people? (His pictures that he painted of the great deeds and great hunts.)

  • Conclude that we all have talents that we can share and use to help others.  When we give or share our time, talent, or treasure for others (for the common good) this is known as “philanthropy.”  Ask each student to think of a special talent he or she has.  Allow students to share these with the class.

  • Tell the students that they will be painting a picture of an act of kindness that they have done or observed being done in the school/community. Gather ideas from the students and create a list of acts so that they will have something to choose from if they can’t come up with something of their own (helping another student, picking paper off the floor, sharing a book with a classmate, etc.). These pictures will be displayed for the rest of the school to see.

  • Creating the paintings:

    • Have students write their name on one side of the brown paper.

    • Students should crumple the brown paper into a ball and then open it out, flattening it to the best of their ability. This is to simulate animal hide.

    • Distribute paint shirts, paintbrushes, water cups and paint.  (Instruct students not to dip their brush in a new color without rinsing it first.  You may choose to have only one or two brushes per color to avoid confusion).

    • Students should then create a painting of their talent, using detail.

    • Set aside to dry


  • Teacher observation of appropriate student participation in the discussions.
  • Student followed directions and completed talent painting at their own level.

Learning Link(s): (click to view)

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

  • Once paintings have dried, add sand detail
    • Distribute white glue (in either cups with brushes or in bottles)
    • Students should add a thin layer of glue to highlight key portions of their painting (try to avoid large puddles of glue)
    • Sprinkle sand on the glue
    • Set aside to dry

  • The teacher should then type a caption to identify the child’s talent that is depicted in the painting
  • Display paintings

Reflection: (click to view)

Bibliographical References:

  • dePaola, Tomie.  The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush.  New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1996.  ISBN: 0698113608.
  • International Child Art Foundation. http://www.icaf.org/about/ accessed 1.21.2011

Lesson Developed By:

Carrie Thomas
Pre-service Teacher


Philanthropy Framework:


S., LEAGUE Coach Shelby, MI6/1/2007 8:40:37 AM

(The positive aspect of using this lesson was) thinking about "giving and caring" through poetry.

P., LEAGUE Coach Shelby, MI6/1/2007 8:42:51 AM

(The positive aspect of using this lesson was) the students really enjoyed doing it.

S., LEAGUE Coach Newark, NJ6/4/2007 4:50:54 PM

(The positive aspect of using this lesson was) the students gained the understanding that the soldiers that are fighting for our country are away from loved ones. They realized that these cards (that we made) could put a smile on the faces of men and women who are away from their families.

M., LEAGUE Coach Newark, NJ6/4/2007 4:53:12 PM

(The positive aspect of using this lesson was) the students were made aware of what is going on in the world outside their homes and classrooms.

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Unit Contents:

Overview:Sharing our Talents Summary


Sharing our Talents

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