Define the Problem
  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Give examples of needs not met by the government, business, or family sectors.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.

Learners define philanthropy and explore why it is important for citizens (including middle schoolers) to take action to improve the community. In this first lesson introducing the Project Based Learning process, learners investigate the concept of food security in the U.S. and start asking questions about factors related to food production costs. The teacher presents the challenge that determines the direction of the students' projects. 

Focus Question: What farm to table factors affect the cost of food production, and how do choices in food production and distribution affect food security in the U.S.? 


PrintTwo 50-Minute Sessions

The learner will:

  • define philanthropy as giving time, talent, or treasure and taking action for the common good.
  • explore how world population numbers are related to issues of hunger.
  • explore how food production impacts issues of hunger.
  • discuss how to respond to the challenge to address the issue of food insecurity in the U.S.
  • Internet access and projector to show video to class
  • student copies of the handout Population Growth Workshop
  • student copies of the Challenge Letter (handout two)
  • student copies of the Agricultural Production Challenges handout (three)
  • WorldOMeter www.worldometers.info
  • Heifer International www.heifer.org - Pay it Forward Sustainable Giving
  • (IFT) Institute of Food Technologists - www.ift.org
  • American Society of Nutrition - www.nutrition.org
  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics - www.eatright.org
  • Dietary Guidelines - www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines
  • (USDA) U.S. Department of Agriculture - www.usda.gov
  • (HHS) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - www.hhs.gov
  • (CDC) Centers for Disease Control - www.cdc.gov


  1. Day One

    Anticipatory Set

    To begin a quality service-learning project, learners need to have an understanding of what a philanthropist is and have the belief that each one of them can be a philanthropist. There are many Learning to Give lesson plans available to introduce this concept. Rather than teach another lesson, you may simply introduce the concept with this video defining Philanthropy After showing the video, emphasize that a philanthropist can be anyone of any age who takes action for the common good. Philanthropy is not just for older rich people who give money to charity. Philanthropy can be acts of service, education, research, advocacy and more. Ask them to think of ways they are already philanthropists and encourage them to share how they feel when they give or serve and what the world would be like if more people were philanthropists. Lead learners to identify themselves as important philanthropists who can make a difference throughout this unit.

  2. Tell the students that for the next several weeks, they are going to be exploring the issue of hunger and food insecurity and applying their philanthropy skills and academic skills toward designing a project to address the issue creatively and through real-world service. Tell them about the Project Based Learning approach that puts the responsibility in their hands for defining an issue, conducting research, and presenting carrying out solutions. Explain that service-learning is a teaching and learning strategy that applies academic skills to real-world service.

  3. Say, "Today and for the next several days we are going to learn some basic information about the issue of food insecurity and start defining what the problem is."

  4. Some of the challenges of feeding a population start on the farm. Tell students that food production decisions are made based on cost of materials or procedures, demand for the food, type of product, and availability of resources. Give the students some examples of decisions farmers must make that affect costs:

    • For security and health of livestock, farmers decide how to protect animals from disease and predators. There are different costs and risks with different veterinary treatment plans and different holding systems. If a disease does enter the system, this increases the cost for the farmer.
    • A drought greatly affects the cost of food. If a drought affects the corn crop in a whole region, it raises costs across the board for everyone. Corn is a food crop used in many forms, a huge supplier of animal feed, and in recent years it also has become a significant source of fuel. When the availability goes down, it affects several areas of the economy.
    • Many people are demanding organic food. Organic food costs about 30% more to produce. That has an effect on availability to people who cannot afford the higher cost. Additionally, more land is necessary to produce organic food, making it more difficult to significantly increase food production.
  5. These food production decisions impact the issue of hunger in the U.S. The students' job over the next few weeks is to explore food production issues and see how they affect the issue of hunger. They will explore one issue in depth and propose a solution based on research.

  6. To introduce the ideas of world population growth and food scarcity, have students complete thePopulation Growth Workshop handoutand explore two specific websites. Bringing up www.worldometers.info will inspire student inquiry as population and other numbers are flying across the screen. The handout also walks learners through an "Investopedia" article. The goal of this exercise is not to have the learners read the entire article. A great research skill is the ability to read charts and skim non-fiction information to determine the most pertinent information. Teachers should remind learners to read the directions carefully as the handout tells which paragraphs they should read and which to skip. The last question on the Population Growth Workshop is meant to strike up conversations on solutions and assets to the problem of food scarcity.

  7. After students complete the handout, teachers should encourage open discussion as a class or in smaller groups to help learners dream of ideas before bringing in research to frame ideas. Use handout three: Agricultural Production Challenges as a resource to spark discussion.

  8. Day Two - Letter of challenge to students

    After an introduction to philanthropy and world population ideas in day one, learners are ready to put on their philanthropist hats and engage with the challenge letter to hear the specific focus for this unit.

  9. First, read the letter aloud while learners follow along (every learner should have a copy).

  10. After learners have heard and read the Challenge Letter, learners need to mark and code the letter to determine important information. Learners should be marking and coding information about the project (due dates, presentation format, other logistics), skills (technology skills, presentation skills), and content (standards addressed, defiinitions, unknown topics). Teachers should model their expecation for marking and coding a text, so learners know what is expected by the teacher. The letter that has been marked and coded will be used in Lesson Two during "Knows" and "Need to Knows."


Teacher should listen to conversations during and after the population growth workshop to determine where students are in their understanding of the ideas of philanthropy and food scarcity. The letter that is marked and coded should be collected for a participation grade but needs to be returned to students by the next day so it may be used in Lesson Two for "Knows and Need to Knows."