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

What's My Civic Responsibility? (11th Grade)
Lesson 1
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework

Focus Question(s):

What does it mean to be a member of a community?

NOTE: Prior to this lesson, use the Blue Sky Activity in which students envision a better world.  If you already have a Blue Sky display, revisit it before beginning this lesson.


The learners define and explain the importance of civic engagement and responsible citizenship. They explore the reasons why people may hesitate to become involved in solving problems and consider ways in which they can be "part of the solution" rather than a "part of the problem." 


One 50-60 minute class period


The learner will:

  • identify some of the issues and problems evident in their world.
  • determine what it means to be a responsible citizen and identify ways that civic engagement demonstrates it.
  • articulate an understanding of why people hesitate to become involved in problem resolution.
  • determine what it means, and ways to be, a "part of the solution" rather than "part of the problem."

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.

  Students use social media to encourage people to be involved in community, sharing from their perspective what responsible citizenship means. 


Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:
As the learners are entering the classroom, have the song "Where is the Love?" by the Black-Eyed Peas playing in the back ground. As the learners settle in replay the song challenging them to identify the purpose of the song as well as the kinds of problems and solutions the song suggests.

  • Have the learners share what they perceive as some of the problems that exist in their world today.  Are they the same as those identified in “Where is the Love?” or are there different/additional problems?
  • Have the learners share what the song is suggesting as a way(s) to address these problems. Should the solution(s) to the problems we face today be similar or different from what is recommended in the song?  
  • Ask the learners whose responsibility it is to address these problems and work toward solution(s), leading them to conclude that everyone who is concerned needs to be a part of the solution.
  •  Place Sydney Harris’s quote on the display board “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re a part of the problem” and have the learners share what they think Mr. Harris is implying, and if they agree with the quote.
  • Define Civic Engagement as “A person’s connections with the life of their communities.” Ask the learners how the nature of a person's "connection" to their community makes available opportunities to help resolve community problems or to create more problems?
  • Have learners brainstorm a list of problems in their community (school or larger community) that they particularly care about. (Teacher Note: This may require bringing in newspapers or having the learners look on-line for local issues.)
  • Next to each identified problem place a plus sign representing a learner who was or is actively involved in helping to resolve the problem. Discuss what kinds of actions the learners have taken in the past (perhaps through participation in service events) and how it demonstrates responsible citizenship.
  • Discuss common reasons/excuses why people are not civically engaged (lack of knowledge, lack of time, not knowing what to do, feeling that they cannot make a difference, mistrust of politicians, etc.).
  • Conclude this lesson by having the learners consider what the result of civic disengagement by any generation might be and by asking students to brainstorm ways that they could become involved in helping to resolve a problem in their community or school.


Learner particiaption in the classroom discussion will form the basis for the assessment of this lesson.

Learning Link(s): (click to view)

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

Consider having the learners develop an activity that will encompass this lesson that can be considered a service learning project for the One Day Event. Ideas can be found at www.DoSomething.org

Reflection: (click to view)

Bibliographical References:

Lesson Developed By:

Lydia Alvarez
University High
Newark, NJ 77108

Dennis VanHaitsma
Curriculum Consultant
Learning to Give


Philanthropy Framework:

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Unit Contents:

Overview:What's My Civic Responsibility? (11th Grade) Summary


What's My Civic Responsibility? (11th Grade)

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