Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Our Unique Legacy of Giving
Unit of 3 lessons

Unit Overview:

Focus Question: How do communities impact individuals, and how can individuals impact a community? 

Unit Purpose:

The story of one philanthropic community inspires students to tell the story of their own people and places. Students create stories and use the stories as a gift to others. Although it uses a video about West Michigan, this unit is easily adapted to any community, urban or rural.

Unit Duration:

Seven 50-minute lessons, one 20-minute lesson, plus time to research and write biographies

Unit Objectives:

The learner will:

  • define philanthropy, philanthropist and humanity.
  • view and discuss the documentary The Gift of All: a Community of Givers.
  • identify character traits of philanthropists in the documentary and of self.
  • respond through discussion and writing to the documentary.
  • read a two-page biography and write four bullet points.
  • write a metaphor about responsibility to community.
  • interview family members about benefits and needs in the local community.
  • analyze the meaning of a famous quote about community philanthropy and relate it to their own lives.
  • generate a list of positive traits of the local community.
  • explain their drawings that symbolize the needs and envisioned future of the community.
  • discuss possible projects for addressing a community need, to be implemented at a later date.
  • identify local philanthropists for a project in the next lesson.
  • define civic responsibility and civic virtue and relate to telling stories of philanthropy.
  • research and write a biography of a local philanthropist.
  • analyze and identify sources of beliefs and values as family, religion/spirituality, personal experiences, and peers.
  • publish philanthropy biographies.
  • prepare questions to go with biographies.
  • practice reading aloud, modeling literacy skills for elementary audience.
  • go on a field trip to an elementary school to read biography.
  • demonstrate and share learning to a wider community and donate books to the library.

Service Experience:

Although lessons in this unit contain service project examples, decisions about service plans and implementation should be made by students, as age appropriate.

Students learn about the people and places in their own community (school, city or town, or state) and design a project to address a local need. As a demonstration of learning, students interview a local philanthropist and write a biography (can be someone from their neighborhood, family, or faith-based group). The published and illustrated biography becomes a gift when students read aloud to elementary students, share literacy strategies, and teach the concept of philanthropy.

Unit Assessment:

The completed biography will meet grade level expectations for writing and format. Biography must include a definition of philanthropy and examples of philanthropy in their community. Students exhibit literacy skills as they model reading aloud and discuss their biography with a younger student.

School/Home Connection:

For homework in Lesson One: Discovering Our Legacy of Giving, the students read a two-page biography and make a bulleted list to share with the class the next class period.

in Lesson Two: Exploring Our Legacy of Giving, students get input from family members on names of philanthropists in the community.

Notes for Teaching:

Although this unit was written for West Michigan, the lessons are adaptable to any community, urban or rural.

The documentary featured in this unit was produced by the SO.U.L of Philanthropy project along with The Grand Rapids Community Foundation and Calvin College. Grand Rapids Public Library holds the copyright and has copies available for viewing. Go to www.soulofphilanthorpy.org for more information.

On the third day of Lesson Three: Sharing Our Legacy of Giving, the students bring their completed biographies to an elementary classroom to share their stories of giving. Please arrange this field trip in advance and let the students know as soon as possible for what grade level their biographies should be geared. Each middle school student will be paired with an elementary student. The students will read their biographies and ask questions. This is an act of philanthropy as they share their time and talent with a younger student as well as teach about philanthropy, important members of the community, and civic virtue.

Bibliographical References:

The Gift of All: a Community of Givers, produced by The S.O.U.L. of Philanthropy along with The Grand Rapids Community Foundation and Calvin College. Copyright © Grand Rapids Public Library, City of Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2008, 2009. Streaming video available at http://learningtogive.org/videos/gift_of_all.asp

Learning to Give. "SOUL of Philanthropy" project. Includes links to video, related quotations, and briefing papers (biographies) http://learningtogive.org/teachers/SOUL/

"S.O.U.L. of Philanthropy" (Sharing Our Uncommon Legacy), a project of the Grand Rapids Community Foundation http://soulofphilanthropy.org/


State Curriculum and Philanthropy Theme Frameworks:

See individual lessons for benchmark detail.

Lessons Developed By:

Barbara Dillbeck
Learning to Give

Betsy Flikkema
Associate Director
Learning to Give

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