Building a Community: Responsibility and Leadership

9, 10, 11, 12

Students engage in a variety of activities to define community. Students investigate the responsibilities that come with being a citizen of the community.

PrintTwo 50-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • explore responsibilities of members of any community.
  • develop a classroom community contract.
  • create and share an ideal community.
  • apply understanding of responsibility and good citizenship through role-play.
  • Chart paper and markers
  • Chart paper or handout with vocabulary prepared in advance
  • Student copies of Handout 1: Mama Carol's Story
  • Writing paper and pencils
    • Student copies of Handout 2: A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words
    • Student copies of Handout 3: Does Fame Come with Responsibility?
  • Bandanas/scarves that can be used for blindfolds

community: a group of people with shared interests; a place where people with shared interests come together

fellowship: an association, or gathering, of people who share common beliefs

environment: social positions and roles as a whole that influence the individuals of a group

cohesion: bonds, “glue” that keep people together

resources: people, equipment, facilities, and services that allow people to function

responsibility: being trusted to do something

citizenship: the responsibilities that come with being a member of a community

accountability: being responsible for something (in this case being responsible for your actions)

advocacy: public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy

Home Connection 

Have students think and follow through with a new responsibility either at home, in school or in the community. Tell them they will share what they did, why they chose that activity and the response they got from community members with the class in the next 2 weeks.

Research (online or in the newspaper) what your community does to collaborate around events, causes, and outreach. Go to an event related to something you are interested in, such as a walk/run for a cure, a cultural festival, or a human rights parade.


Day One: Handout blank paper and ask each student to take 3 minutes to list at least 3 ways today’s examination of community can positively influence them when they return to their own communities. For students who have difficulty, have them finish the sentence “My hope for myself is________________________.” “My hope for my community is__________________________________________.” Give them 3 minutes to once again perform a swap meet of ideas, circulating and sharing just one of their ideas at a time with as many other students as time allows.

Day Two: Responsible Citizens: Have students think of a celebrity or a community leader who has recently made a poor choice that had negative consequence for others, and have them think about what they would say to that person about being a responsible citizen. To help guide students, have them fill in the blanks: I would tell _______________  to stop  ______________  because ________________________________.  Instead he/she should ___________________  to be a responsible citizen.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Explain that students will be working together in ways that will require them to better their surroundings by taking care of themselves and each other. Hand out blank paper and ask each student to take 5 minutes to list at least 3 ways they respect themselves and others. Exchange lists. Discuss what they noticed about the exchange and then give them 3 minutes to share one of their ideas with as many other students as time allows.

  2. Bring the group together and record on chart paper as many different ideas as they can brainstorm around how they can best show respect to themselves and others.

  3. As a group, examine the list and narrow it down to 3-5 general statements that the group can agree to work with.

    Explain that this document will be posted as “Our Community Contract.” Although this draft may be edited and typed neatly at a later time, have students initial the rough draft as a symbol of their willingness to adhere to the guidelines. Post this document for the remainder of the work (and year) together. (This is a good classroom management strategy.)

  4. Students each draw a symbolic picture representing a responsible citizen. The drawing includes props that showcase respectfulness, such as glasses that represent seeing other perspectives and respecting differences. 

  5. Read aloud, while students read along, the story about Mama Carol on the Handout. Discuss the questions at the bottom of the page.

    Ask students: “How does what Mama Carol is doing match up with the definition of community?” “How are your communities similar to hers?”

  6. Read an article about the Flint, Michigan, water crisis (informational text) and expand students' critical thinking with higher-level questioning about the community issues of responsible government and citizenship raised in the crisis as it unfolded. 

  7. Share the vocabulary words on the chart and begin a discussion around each word. Ask students to explain or infer how each word fits with the story about Mama Carol. Ex: What are some Mama Carol’s character traits? Who do you know that reminds you of Mama Carol?

  8. Day Two:

    Anticipatory Set:

    As a class, review what community means. Record answers on chart paper. Explain to the class that they will investigate the responsibilities that come with being a citizen of the community.

  9. On chart paper, write the vocabulary words, “responsibility” and “citizenship”. Have students brainstorm what those words mean to them. Record all answers under the corresponding word. They may do a gallery walk and add sticky notes with words related to responsiblity and citizenship. 

  10. Tell students that they will be doing a experiment in responsibility. Assign students to meet in pairs. Give each pair a blindfold (or a scarf). Ask one member of each pair to put on the blindfold.

  11. The partner without the blindfold will direct the blindfolded partner from one end of the room to another and make sure that the person wearing the blindfold does not run into any objects or people. After the person has completed the task, the partners will switch roles. When all students have a chance to play both roles, have a class discussion using the following questions:

    • What went well? What didn't go well?
    • What would you do differently now that you know what you know?
    • How did it feel to wear a blindfold and rely on your partner to guide you across the room?
    • When you were not wearing the blindfold, how did it feel to be responsible for guiding your partner across the room?
    • How was this a responsible act?
    • If your partner fell, who would be accountable? Why?
    • In this activity, the partner was able to see obstacles and dangers that the blindfolded person could not. What experiences have you had helping someone out of harm's way?
    • How does this relate to being responsible?
    • What do you think would have happened if your partner had to get across the room without your help?
    • Are there times that someone in your community might need your help in getting from one place to another? Share.
    • How is helping your partner like being a good citizen in your community? Give a specific example.
  12. Explain that in this activity we role-played the responsible actions of average citizens. Connect this to a real-life issue. For example, how does this relate to the Flint water crisis? 

  13. Have students reflect on the images in the handout: A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words. Tell them that these images show everyday situations where we can exhibit responsibility and citizenship. Tell them to write a caption for each.

    • Ask students what they are responsible for in their daily lives. Have them name some examples of broader responsibilities as citizens of their community and world, such as sharing their talents and time to help younger children get the resources (reading skills, role-models) they need.
    • Ask: “What do you feel responsible for?” Ask students to name ways that they have acted responsibly or as good citizens.
  14. Define a philanthropist as someone who shares his or her time, talent, or treasure (money or donated items) or takes action for the common good. Tell students that when they take responsibility as a citizen to address a need they see in the community, they are philanthropists. A philanthropist is not just a rich and famous person who gives money.

  15. Ask whether someone who is famous has more responsibility than average citizens to be responsible to others. Discuss. Tell students to reflect on what they expect from someone with money and status, as they complete the handout: Does Fame Come with Responsibility?

  16. Exit ticket: What is one responsibility you plan to take on in order to make your family or community stronger?

Cross Curriculum 

Students identify one way they can make their community match their ideal community. Assign them the task of intentionally acting on what they select. They make a plan and carry it out to address a community need.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define philanthropy to include giving and sharing; volunteering; and private individual action intended for the common good. Explain how a volunteer individual/group can act for the common good.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.4 Describe and give examples of characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibilities.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define and give examples of motivations for giving and serving.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities, and research.
    3. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Provide a needed service.