Refugee Needs and Wants
  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.2 Explain the difference between wants and needs.

The students will learn to distinguish the difference between wants and needs. They will distinguish between wants and needs by completing an activity in which they must categorize items into wants or needs.  Students will learn that many times refugees are without resources to meet basic needs.

PrintOne 45 Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • distinguish between wants and needs.
  • evaluate items and categorize them into wants and needs.
  • discover their own wants and needs and determine how they might differ from a refugee's wants and needs.
  • compare and contrast information about themselves with information gathered and synthesized about refugees.
  • UNHCR Video Carly (see Bibliographical References)
  • Large piece of construction paper for each group
  • Magazines (a variety of food, family, catalogues, etc) on a table in the classroom
  • Scissors and Glue
Bibliography: This resource contains a printable Needs and Wants game This resource contains a printable worksheet on needs and wants

  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Say to the children: Raise your hand if you have ever written down or thought ofa list of gifts you would like to get before a birthday or a holiday. Think about what might have been on those lists. Were they mostly things you needed or things you wanted? Let's explore the difference!

  2. Define needs and wants to students. After reading the definitions, further the explanation by saying, "While you may need food, a cookie is not a need; it is a want." Have students discuss why. Explain to students a need is something you must have to survive, like food, water, clothing, and shelter. A want is something that you would like, but it is not necessary to survive, like a pair of designer jeans.

  3. Pass out the construction paper and have students fold it in half. Have them write "Needs" on one side and "Wants" on the other.

  4. Have students cut out pictures from magazines and glue them into the correct column on their construction paper. Allow students to work with a partner or individually to complete this task.

  5. Have students post their posters on the wall. Allow time for students to walk by and observe all the posters. Discuss what they observed. Engage students in a discussion of a few items on their posters. For example, if a student has a picture of a muffin in their "Needs" column, ask the student why he/she placed the muffin in the "Needs" column.

  6. Tell students they will be watching the Carly video again, however, this time, they will be looking for things that Carly needs and things that she wants. Play the video, but stop it after she meets each group to discuss what she wanted or needed from that group. Create a chart with two columns labeled "Needs" and "Wants." Record students’ responses. Lead students to the understanding that many times refugees are without basic needs.

  7. Wrap up the lesson by reviewing the definitions of needs and wants. To do this have each student complete this sentence: I need _______, but I want ________.


Assess student performance on working independently. Assess student participation during discussions. Assess students on their Needs and Wants posters. Assess students on their answers to the "I need ________, but I want _________" closing activity.