Our Journey Begins Close to Home--The Americas

6, 7, 8

This lesson enables learners to examine and demonstrate knowledge of geographic, historic and cultural elements and traditions in North and South America. Learners will investigate how the elements have affected the development of Stewardship and Philanthropy in representative nations.

Lesson Rating 
PrintFive to Six Forty-Five Minute Class Periods (or three block schedule sessions)

The learner will:

  • investigate the history and culture of selected countries in North and South America.
  • explain how the cultural traditions in these countries affected the development of nonprofit organizations and stewardship.
  • describe and locate nations in North and South America, their cultures and communities.
  • be able to discover biomes in nation selected.
  • discover nonprofit organizations in nations studied.
  • demonstrate use of concepts relating to philanthropy and geography.
  • describe ecological and human problems addressed by NGOs.
  • describe a contemporary condition in Canada, and one nation in Central or South America, and trace the historical origins.
  • Learning Logs or Journals
  • Paper & pencil or pen
  • Book - Discovering The Inca Ice Maiden by Johan Reinhard (See Bibliographical References)
  • Masters for a timeline, line and bar graphs
  • Internet access
  • District-supplied geography text
  • Atlases
  • Globes
  • Geographic and historical reference materials from local school library or media center

Instructor Note: Make arrangements to take your class to the local school library, media center or community library to obtain reference resources needed for lesson research.


Canada: Fundraising Resources. https://www.fundsnetservices.com/searchresult/29/Canada-Foundations-&-Grants.html

CIVICUS - (an international organization whose goal is to strengthen civil society throughout the world). http://www.civicus.org/  

Reinnhard, Johan. Discovering the Inca Ice Maiden. National Geographic Society (March 1998). ISBN: 0792271424

Smith, Bradford, Sylvia Shue, Jennifer Lisa Vest and Joseph Villared. Philanthropy in Communities of Color. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1999.

The two sources which follow are excellent Internet sources for culture and traditions of Canada:

http://www.everyculture.com/Bo-Co/Canada.html Canada: Culture and Traditions.

https://www.dotdash.com/ (Enter "Canada "for search)

Internet sources for information on South and Central America:

Lonely Planet http://www.lonelyplanet.com 

Choike is a portal dedicated to improving the visibility of the work done by NGOs from the South. It serves as a platform where NGOs can disseminate their work and at the same time enrich it with information from diverse sources, organized in line with the perspective of Southern civil society https://choike.org/nuevo_eng/4/34/links.html


  1. Anticipatory Set:Review the concepts of philanthropy and stewardship, using the definitions and concepts developed in Lesson One: Traditions—Our World and Philanthropy. Read an excerpt from the story, Discovering The Inca Ice Maiden, by Johan Reinhard. (The publisher is National Geographic Society, March 1998. ISBN: 0792271424. It is the story about the effort to preserve an Incan child entombed in ice on a mountain in Panama. The author gives a lot of information about the country and the photography is excellent.) Talk about the story with your students and discuss these two questions: "What elements of culture and history are present in what we just read?" and "Why is this preservation an act of stewardship?"

  2. Students will take out their Learning Logs or journals, write their responses to these two questions from the anticipatory set, and justify their answers.

    • Note: Tell the learners that philanthropic or Non-Governmental Organizations in Panama are largely concerned with environmental problems. It is only in the last 10 or 15 years that NGOs were formed to help the native peoples living in their country.
    • Model with your learners the nation of Panama and construct a timeline of historical events that have impacted the development of stewardship and philanthropy (see Bibliographical References for sources of information). Discuss with the learners, the grassroots movement that led to the United States giving control of the Panama Canal back to the Panamanians when the lease was up. Develop the themes of place, location, time, relationship of people to the environment (include building of the canal, disease) and movement.
    • Divide the classroom into groups of four to five learners and assign each group either the continent of North America, Central America or South American to investigate. One group will research and analyze Mexico and its nonprofit organizations. The second group will research and analyze Canada and its nonprofit organizations. The third will do the same with Peru. If your class size allows for more than three groups, divide Canada into provinces and have groups research a particular province.
    • Each group will be responsible for the following:
      • Research the physical geography, history and culture of their country.
      • Produce a physical/political map of the nation.
      • Compile and evaluate statistics on the ethnic makeup and socio economic connections of their country and display the data on a line or bar graph. Example: ethnic group and poverty, ethnic group and levels of education.
      • Investigate the nonprofit organizations and foundations and determine which ethnic group receives the greatest percentage of services. Relate their activities as advocacy groups. Show how their activities promote the common good.
      • Once they have the percentage, hypothesize the reason(s) for the disparity. Then, look back at their historical research to determine the accuracy of their hypothesis. They may record their hypotheses in their Learning Logs or journal.
      • Answer the question, "What is being done to reach a greater number of people who are receiving the least amount of services from nonprofit organizations?"
      • What cultural differences are there in the group receiving fewer services and why are they harder to serve?
      • How are the four countries similar? Answers: The first peoples to inhabit each of these countries were native peoples. How are they different? Sample answer: Cultural traditions vary from tribe to tribe and country because of the varied terrain.

Each team will present their graphs and other information about stewardship and philanthropy in the country that they studied. Assessments can also stem from: Learning logs, teacher observation, and assessment of the oral presentations according to the following rubric:

4 points - All eight questions completed with great detail and reasoned answers

3 points - Six of the eight are completed with detail and reasoned answers

2 points - Four to five questions adequately answered

1 point - Two to three questions answered with some accuracy

0 points - No attempt made

Cross Curriculum 

None for this lesson.

Philanthropy Framework

  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 03. Names and Types of Organizations within the Civil Society Sector
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Recognize terms that describe the civil society sector.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define the phrase <i>community/social capital</i> and discuss how it relates to all communities.
    2. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Analyze information to differentiate fact from opinion based on the investigation of issues related to the common good.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Identify and give examples of stewardship in cultural traditions around the world.
      2. Benchmark MS.9 Identify pro-social behavior in different cultures and traditions.