Exploring Our School Community

In this lesson students will students will interview adults and peers who are part of their school community and identify “gifts” that make the community special. Extension activities explore science elements raised in the story.
Grade Level


In this lesson, students will:

  • Use skills and strategies of the reading and writing processes
  • Practice listening and speaking skills
  • Ask questions with purpose using “question words” (who, what, when, where, why, how)
  • Share what they learn, in writing and verbally
Essential Questions
  • What is community?
  • How and why is our community special?
  • Are we more than the labels that are sometimes applied to us, such as “teacher” or “student”?
  • What strategies can we use to understand difficult vocabulary or writing?
  • How can our ideas be presented so others will understand them well?
  • Copies of “The Gift,” enough for small groups or to be read individually
  • Vocabulary in Context handout 
  • Dictionaries
  • Several large sheets of butcher paper taped together for the school map, or a large portion of the board reserved for this purpose
  • Crayons or colored pencils
  • Pens or pencils
  • Notecards or scrap paper cut into squares


neighborhood | nābər hoŏd| (noun) an area where people live near one another

community |kə myoōnitē| (noun) a group of people living together in one place; all the people living in a particular area or place

tiller |ˈtilər| (noun) a machine for breaking up soil; a plow or cultivator

chemical | kemikəl| (noun) a substance used in or produced by a chemical process

litmus paper |ˈlitməs ˈpāpər| (noun) a small strip of treated paper used in chemistry, which turns red in an acid and blue in a base

acid | asid| (noun) a chemical substance that dissolves in water, has a sour taste and turns litmus paper red

base |bās| (noun) a chemical compound that reacts with acid to form salt and turns litmus paper blue



  1. Think for one minute about all the places in our school community, all the places you go throughout the school day. Write down your ideas.
  2. Share one of your ideas by coming to the front of the room and writing your idea on the board.
  3. I’m going to draw a map of our school based on this list of places. As I do, let’s identify and add any places we may have forgotten.
  4. We’re going to read a book called “The Gift” about a boy who goes in search of hidden presents in his community. As you read the book, use the strategies on the vocabulary handout and dictionaries to figure out the meaning of any difficult words.
  5. What did Max learn about community? What were his community’s gifts? Do you think we have gifts like those in our school community?
  6. Over the next three days, I want you to interview at least two people — one adult and one student in our school. Find a partner and brainstorm questions we could ask to uncover the hidden gifts in our school. Draw on question words: who, what, when, where, why, and how (for example, What is something you like at our school? Why do you like it?)
  7. Practice asking and discussing some of these questions with your partner.
  8. Use your notecards to record the interview questions you use and the answers. Be sure to write your name, the person’s name and their “job” title (for example, student, teacher, parent volunteer, cafeteria worker) on the top of the notecard. Leave space to draw a picture of the person you’re interviewing.
  9. For the next three mornings, you’ll have a chance to share your interview findings with the class and tape your notecard to our school map. Each morning, we’ll check our map to see if there are parts of the school in which we haven’t interviewed anyone and come up with ways about how to fix that.
  10. (On the final day, either as discussion or writing prompts) In “The Gift,” Max realized that his community’s gifts “were there all along.” What does our map teach us about our school community and the people in it? How and why is our community special? What’s one way we can be sure we make the most of our community’s gifts more often?

(Refer back to the class’s school community may as you continue to explore the theme of “neighborhood and community.”)


Extension Activity

“The Gift” introduces several science themes appropriate for early grades exploration—with adult supervision, if course: 

  • Ms. Price teaches Max, Chloe, Lei and Chen about acids and bases. Replicate the lesson using ProTeacher’s Do Science activity.
  • Learn more about ways schools are using gardens to build community in A Bountiful Harvest.
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