Common Cents Mission: Common Cents, creator of the Penny Harvest, nurtures a new generation of caring and capable young people between the ages of four and 24 by enabling them to strengthen their communities through philanthropy and service-learning.

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Home > Penny Harvest > How It Works
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Ingeniously simple and remarkably versatile, the Common Cents Penny Harvest is a year-long program designed to thrive within the school day and to build upon itself year after year.  The Penny Harvest requires three things that every community has:  idle pennies, un-met community needs, and kids that care.

While each Penny Harvest school is unique the outcomes and spirit of the program remain the same.  A trained, community-minded Penny Harvest Coach carefully guides a group of dedicated students, and using the tools found in their Penny Harvest Kit lead the school through the full year experience.

The Penny Harvest is a Four Phase program:

Gather Pennies


- A Penny Harvest Kit full of tools to help the entire school gather pennies, make grants and take action
- Professional development sessions to help Penny Harvest have the greatest educational impact
- Technical assistance from trained Penny Harvest service- learning experts, logistical support including penny pick up* and grants administration

* may not yet be available in your area.
Starting in the fall, children between the ages of four and 14 connect with their parents, friends, and neighbors as they go in search of pennies. The harvest encourages neighbors of all types and generations to talk and share and ultimately coalesce as a stronger community.

Student leaders work to energize their peers around the Penny Harvest by giving class presentations, leading assemblies and role modeling their own penny collection, while teachers take advantage of our highly-regarded curriculum–a tool that allows them to easily integrate the principles and actions of the Penny Harvest into core curriculum. Through school-wide activities and curriculum connections like the Wheel of Caring lesson, community building assemblies, and friendly competitions, the entire school join forces for one common goal: to beat the “25 Sack Challenge,” striving to fill 25 sacks of pennies, or 750 pounds!

Make Grants

The Philanthropy Roundtable makes the Penny Harvest distinctive among programs by giving children the power and the freedom to decide how to spend their harvest funds.  Student leaders sit on roundtables to study community problems.  They define community, debate and prioritize the most pressing issues and determine which organizations can best alleviate those problems by speaking directly with them through site visits or in-school presentations.  They then make cash grants to those organizations with the pennies they collected earlier; a philanthropic practice that is often reserved for adults.

Take Action

Often students want to take their philanthropy a step further by getting involved first hand.  Students conceive and plan their own Neighborhood Service projects, sometimes using their pennies to fund these projects and other times by simply volunteering their time.  From revitalizing public gardens to teaching English to immigrants, students partner with experienced neighborhood groups to learn more about complex community problems and how to work together to solve them.

Party & Planning!

After months of intense study and decision making, students present grant checks to their chosen organizations at the year-end Check Presentation Ceremony.  It’s an exciting moment, and includes serious reflection on the school’s collective Penny Harvest accomplishments. One student concluded: “It sticks in my mind how as we sat on the floor and read letter after letter of sad stories. I couldn’t imagine how you could choose who to help, which is what we had to do.”  Reflections like this reinforce learning, compel students to evaluate their accomplishments and generate creative ways to make the next harvest even heartier.

Read on:  Outcomes
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