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

Courage to Change the World
Lesson 3
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


Learners discover examples of courage by learning about a hero, Nelson Mandela, whose actions changed the course of history.


One 20-minute class period


The Learner will:

  • site examples of courage in the life of Nelson Mandela.


Service Experience:

Although this lesson contains a service project example, decisions about service plans and implementation should be made by students, as age appropriate.
Learn more about the stages of service-learning.

This character education mini-lesson is not intended to be a service learning lesson or to meet the K-12 Service-Learning Standards for Quality Practice. The character education units will be most effective when taught in conjunction with a student-designed service project that provides a real world setting in which students can develop and practice good character and leadership skills.  For ideas and suggestions for organizing service events go to generationon.org.


  • student copies of a biography of Nelson Mandela printed from the Internet (optional) See Bibliographical References.
  • Mandela: From the Life of the South African Statesman by Floyd Cooper or similar short biography of Mandela (optional)

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:

Remind the learners that in the first lesson you asked them to name a hero of their choice. Today you are going to share with them a story of a hero from South Africa. Ask if any of them can guess the name of that hero.

Teacher Note: There is a brief advertisement at the beginning of this video. To avoid showing it to the students, load the video before class begins and pause it just at the end of the advertisement for later viewing by the class.

  • Ask the learners what incidents in Mandela's life are examples of courage
  • Display this quote by Nelson Mandela:

"There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires."

  • Ask the learners "What words or phrases in this quote by Nelson Mandela relate to courage? What other character traits, in addition to courage, might Mandela be referring to in the quote?"


Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

Read aloud the following poem that Mandela used to keep up his courage while in jail for 30 years. Have the students listen for and discuss words that describe courage in the poem.


by William Ernest Henley


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Bibliographical References:

Biographies of Nelson Mandela can be found at:





Cooper. Floyd. Mandela: From the Life of the South African Statesman. Putnam Juvenile; Reprint edition (January 24, 2000). ISBN-13: 978-0698118164

Lesson Developed By:

Betsy Flikkema
Associate Director
Learning to Give

Barbara Dillbeck
Learning to Give


Philanthropy Framework:

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Unit Contents:

Overview:Character Education: Courage (Grade 6) Summary


Courageous Heroes
Everyday Courage
Courage to Change the World
Stamp of Courage
Heroes and Courage

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