What Does It Mean to Give Your Time?

What Does It Mean to Give Your Time?
Edith Wilson: Law, Politics and Govt

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: Three to four class periods


   Soon after Woodrow Wilson’s re-election in 1916, the U.S. entered World War I.  First Lady Edith Wilson decided to set an example for others in the nation to follow in supporting the troops in the war.  She volunteered with a Red Cross unit at the White House, asking for clothing and supplies.  One of the acts that she is most well known for is bringing a flock of sheep to the White House lawn and allowing them to graze there.  This saved money by providing a natural ‘lawnmower’ rather than hiring men to complete the task, as well as making a large sum of money by auctioning off the wool from the sheep.  The sales brought over $50,000 toward the war effort (Gould, 1996, p. 361).


Students will consider what it means to sacrifice time and effort in helping others.  Students will decide areas where their help may be needed, and pursue this area in the local community.

Materials Required:

Word processor (or paper and writing utensil) Internet access (to further resources) Computer(s) Printer (to print final papers)


1.  Explain the introductory story about Mrs. Wilson and the money raised for the war effort to the students.  (If possible, have a volunteer from the community come in to the class and speak about what it means to be a volunteer.)

2.  Ask students to come up with ideas where they can help someone or an organization in need.  If needed, allow students to search the World Wide Web to obtain ideas.  (An option is to do something at the school that students, staff, and parents could get involved in during the day.)

3.  Assist students in planning an activity where they, as individuals or as a group, can volunteer a day or more.  You may want to involve parents in this activity.

4.  Have students write or type a one-page paper explaining what they did, how they felt and if they would volunteer their time in the future.

5.  Have students explain to the class what they chose to do and why.

Extending the Lesson:

  • Have students take pictures to include in their report.
  • Allow students to create a presentation about their experience using PowerPoint.

Sources & Resources:

Print Resources:

  • Gould, L.L. (1996).  American first ladies: Their lives and their legacy. New York,  New York: Garland Publishing.



This lesson was developed by Marian Maxfield, Kent State University