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.