Lesson Plan: Gratitude Photo/Art Project


This lesson, inspired by social media "challenges" and Project 365[1], encourages students to explore many areas of their lives in which they see and/or experience gratitude. 

Learning Outcomes

Students will define gratitude, identify what they are grateful for and express gratitude visually.


Materials Required

  • photos require access to cameras or phones
  • art projects can be done in any medium, for example drawing, painting, collage

Teaching and Learning Activities

  1. ACTIVATE THINKING: Co-create a class definition of gratitude by finishing the sentence stem; "Gratitude is...."
  • This can be done as a large group or with a partner or individually.
  • If using computers or tablets/iPads, students can search a variety of sources for definitions.
  • Share student findings with the class and come to a consensus on the top 3 or 4 words that are most popular or common.
  • According to the world's leading gratitude researcher Robert Emmons[2], Gratitude is an affirmation of goodness where we affirm that there are good things in the world.)

2. Ask students "What are you grateful for?" Make a classroom list of their answers.

3. Use the following categories to inspire student's creative interpretation of what they are grateful for.

  • health
  • bodies
  • can’t live without
  • something new
  • neighbourhood
  • season
  • basic needs
  • transportation
  • family
  • favourite food
  • smile
  • books
  • something funny
  • nature
  • something old
  • animals
  • memories
  • friends
  • what brings joy
  • emotions
  • tradition
  • culture
  • music
  • diversity
  • beauty
  • laughter
  • love
  • kindness
  • where you sleep
  • self-portrait

4.  Introduce the project as an activity to create and/gather images (photos, art, words and phrases) that depict what they are grateful for within a category that they choose.

5. Create time and space for students to share their work.


  • Begin the session with Gratitude - the video by Louie Schwartzberg.

  • Use the list as a 30-day challenge, addressing a new category every day.

  • Include discussions on gratitude awareness and expression through all 5 senses. For example: What does gratitude look like? Smell like? Feel like? Taste like? Sound like?

  • Have students choose a unique category from the list, with no duplications in the class. When the final products are shared, a wide range of gratitude categories will be covered with varying perspectives.

  • Engage multiple classes or the entire school with a gratitude focus.

Follow Up Activities

  • Assign a creative writing assignment - journal, short story or essay.

  • Present photos/art to other students, parents or the wider community.

  • Deepen the connection to gratitude from artistic expression to performing acts and gestures of gratitude at home, school and throughout the community.

This website has over 160,000 members who upload a daily photo. For some it is a way to practice photography, for others it provides a visual chronical of daily life.

Robert Emmons  is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis and author of several books on Gratitude.

  • Secure and Calm

    Secure and calm describes the ability to take part in daily activities and approach new situations without being overwhelmed with worries, sadness or anxiety. To be secure and calm also means being able to cope with stress and pressure, and to bounce back from difficulties.
  • Gets Along with Others

    Getting along with others is the ability to form positive and healthy relationships with peers and adults. Children with better abilities to regulate their emotions and behaviours have more friends and experience more positive playtime with their peers.
  • Alert and Engaged

    Being alert and engaged is the ability to manage and direct one's own feelings, thoughts and emotions. In general, the ability to be 'present' and to exercise self-control.
  • Compassionate and Kind

    Being compassionate and kind is closely related to empathy. While empathy refers more generally to the ability to take the perspective of and to feel the emotions of another person, compassion goes one step further.
  • Solves Problems Peacefully

    Managing conflict effectively is about creating an atmosphere where violence and aggression are not likely. To resolve conflict means using empathy, problem-solving skills, understanding other points of view and coming up with ways to make things right in a fair way.