Historical Biographies
  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
      2. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
    3. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe how citizens organize in response to a need.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
      1. Benchmark E.2 Give an example of an individual who used social action to remedy an unjust condition.
      2. Benchmark E.3 Describe important events in the growth and maturation of the civil society sector in the nation.
      3. Benchmark E.5 Identify positive philanthropic historic acts or events that helped build the community, state, and nation.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.10 Identify reasons why historic figures acted for the common good.

Enjoy the study of historical figures and how they positively contributed to society by sharing research in an enticing and fun way -- a "traveling wax museum of famous philanthropists." The students research the significance and contributions of a selected famous person and develop a costume to represent their chosen person. The lesson ends with a presentation before a school assembly where the students describe the famous person and the contributions he/she made to the world.

PrintSeven or eight class periods and homework time, plus a presentation to the whole school community

The learner will:

  • read and research a specific famous person who has made a philanthropic contribution of time, talent, or treasure for the common good.
  • write, memorize, and present a biographical skit.
  • creatively design or find a costume including props to present the researched famous person.
  • plan and practice a "wax museum" presentation with the whole class.
  • invite family members, other classes, and members of the community to a wax museum of famous people.
  • reflect on the project.
Home Connection: 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework: It is essential that students have interaction at home in order to rehearse the memorization of the biography. Students also need support in finding or creating a costume. Homework consists of memorizing the script and finding a costume. All other research, writing, and creating props will be completed in the classroom.

  1. Anticipatory Set

    Read one or two mini-biographies of some famous people who have made a contribution to society. See Handout One: Sample Scripts for some to choose from. Tell the students that each of these people is a philanthropist: someone who gave their time, talent, or treasure for the common good.Have students identify the person’s major positive contribution to society.

  2. Discuss how learning about these famous change-makers inspires us to do something positive. Inspire the class with the plan to present to the school community a "wax museum of famous philanthropists" in order to let others know about the impact of people and philanthropy on our history and culture.

  3. Allow students to explore the website for a wax museum that displays political and cultural leaders (see bibliographical references). Tell them to read the summaries of a few leaders there to get a feel for what is shared.

  4. Homework:Choose a person to research and present (in costume) who has made a positive contribution today or in history. You may send home Handout Two: Suggestions for Wax Museum Biographies. Tell the students that you must approve their selection.

  5. Days Two - Five (as needed)

  6. Tell the students: You will research and write a biography (approximately 1 page) about your person, including how/what this person contributed to society. The biography needs to be written in the first person – as if you are that person. You will be responsible for memorizing your biography (should be at least a 1-minute oral presentation), and you will be responsible for finding or creating your own costume.

  7. Allow class time for students to work on research, writing, and editing in class.

  8. Students work on memorizing script and creating costumes and props at home.

  9. Rehearse during class time.

  10. Days Six and Seven

  11. As a class, determine the best organization and order of presentation for the final production of the wax museum. For example, all the students may be "frozen" on stage in costume. A spotlight may be shown on one character at a time as they become animated and tell their story.

  12. An introductioin and summary should be planned and presented by the students that explains the show and encourages the audience to think about philanthropy in history and culture and their own potential contributions to making the world a better place in big and small ways.

  13. Students write invitations and decide how to communicate their invitations to the other classes as well as families and community members. They share responsibility for getting the word out.

  14. Practice the whole show together.

  15. Day of Presentation

  16. Present the "wax museum of famous philanthropists" to the school community.

  17. After the Presentation

  18. Reflect on the contributions of all of the characters represented in the show. How did these people make the world better?

  19. Reflect on the impact of the show on the school community. Did our work cause people to think about ways we can all be philanthropists?


The assessment of lesson objectives will be accomplished through teacher observation of the research, writing, and rehearsing process. It will also be from observance of student participation and live performance at the school assembly demonstrating the ability to share knowledge and answer questions.


 Students write a reflection on how their presentation was an act of service and what impact it may have had on those who participated or observed.