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

Circle of Caring
Lesson 1
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


Learners recognize that famous philanthropists started with small acts of kindness before they performed the influential acts that we remember them for. Students define caring through discussion of examples and writing an acrostic.


One 20-minute lesson


The learner will:

  • identify individuals from history as philanthropists.
  • define philanthropy as giving time, talent, and treasure for the common good.
  • define caring.
  • write an acrostic using the word caring.

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.

This character education mini-lesson is not intended to be a service learning lesson or to meet the K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice. The character education units will be most effective when taught in conjunction with a student-designed service project that provides a real world setting in which students can develop and practice good character and leadership skills.  For ideas and suggestions for organizing service events go to generationon.org.

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:

Write a list of varied and famous American historical figures/philanthropists on the board and ask learners, “What do these people have in common?” Examples may include local philanthropists as well as some of the following: Clara Driscoll, Ima Hogg, Olga Bernstein Kohlberg, Jane McCallum, Caesar Chavez, Andrew Carnegie, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, Jane Addams, Squanto, Clara Barton, W. E. B. Dubois, Susan B. Anthony,  Dorothea Dix, Harriet Tubman, Booker T. Washington, Rachel Carson, and George Washington Carver. Discuss the traits that all of the peoples' names written on the board share (all were/are philanthropists and community-minded, caring individuals) and why we remember them for their positive contributions to the common good.

  • Define philanthropy as "giving time, talent, or treasure for the common good." Discuss and identify some of the "time, talent, and treasure" the listed individuals shared that benefited others. Tell the students that each of the individuals on the list on the board performed small acts of kindness that built their character. They didn't start by doing the great things for which we remember them.
  • Ask the learners to choose people on the list who seemed like caring individuals and explain why they chose them. Discuss what caring [feeling concern, showing interest] means.  
  • Do a quick acrostic as a class to get the students thinking about the meaning of caring. Write the word CARING vertically on the board. Tell the students to use the letters in the word caring to start each line and write synonyms, adjectives, and examples of the word caring.


C-concern for others

A-always showing kindness

R-reaching out to others

I-initiating friendships

N-noticing needs of others

G-giving and sharing

  • Display the class acrostic on the wall.

Excerpts taken from Learning to Give lesson, "What Is a Philanthropist and Why Do We Care?" http://www.learningtogive.org/lessons/unit186/lesson1.html

School/Home Connection:

Students bring home a "Perform Random Acts of Kindness" bookmark. They ask their families for ideas of simple acts of kindness they can perform. They write a list of ideas on the back of the bookmark and bring the bookmark to the next class period.

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

Lead the students to recognize that kind acts may spark others to perform kind acts. This is known as serial reciprocity. Define serial reciprocity as "the process occurring when one person gives to another, by means of time, talent or treasure, and thus causes a continual chain of giving to occur in a linear rather than circular pattern."

Lesson Developed By:

Betsy Flikkema
Associate Director
Learning to Give

Barbara Dillbeck
Learning to Give


Philanthropy Framework:

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