Planting the Seeds of Our Values—Contemporary Perspective

6, 7, 8

This lesson will emphasize that beliefs influence our actions. Students will research contemporary examples of individuals acting philanthropically in accordance with a Core Democratic Value.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • describe the action of an individual in contemporary society acting for the common good in accordance with a Core Democratic Value.
  • hypothesize possible reasons for the lack of voluntary action to enhance a Core Democratic Value.
  • identify and propose actions to personally enhance a Core Democratic Value.
  • Eight pictures from various sources to represent one of the eight Core Democratic Values
  • Resource books, magazines, newspapers, and web sites (see Bibliography)
  • Apples and plastic butter knives (approximately eight of each)
  • Democracy in "Bloom" Through Voluntary Action (Attachment One) printed on pink paper, if possible.
  • Scissors

Delisle, Jim. Kid Stories: Biographies of 20 Young People You'd Like to Know. Minneapolis: Free Spirit Publishing, 1991.

Hoose, Phillip. It's Our World, Too! Stories of Young People Who Are Making a Difference. Toronto: Little, Brown and Co., 1993.

National Geographic World Magazine, "Kids Did It" section.

Peace Corps

Points of Light

Roche, Joyce M., Marie Rodriguez, and Phyllis Schneider. Kids Who Make a Difference. New York: MasterMedia Limited, 1993.

Veterans of Foreign Wars


  1. Anticipatory Set: Divide the students into eight small groups of 3-4 students each. Present each group with an apple and a plastic butter knife to cut the apple. Tell the students that in order to maintain our democracy, it must have a "core" just like an apple does. Ask the groups to cut their apple into quarters. Tell students that, just as an apple has seeds, the "seeds" of our democracy are the Core Democratic Values. Ask students to name the values. As they do, place a construction paper seed labeled for each of the eight values onto a wall or bulletin board. Reinforce lesson one's idea that what we believe influences our actions. Then make the analogy that when we "plant" (take action) our "seeds" (Core Democratic Values), we are getting involved as citizens which enables our democracy to "bloom" (be protected and promoted). Allow the students to eat the apple slices.

  2. Present each group with a picture (actual photo, magazine, drawn, or Internet picture) of people engaged in action related to one of the eight Core Democratic Values. Ask each group to describe what is happening in the photo and to identify the Core Democratic Value which is represented. Ask fellow classmates to agree or disagree and tell why. These pictures can be added to the wall display of the eight values and student-generated description posters from Lesson One. Here are examples of pictures related to each of the values:

    • Common Good - people caring for one another, taking care of environment
    • Popular Sovereignty - picture of people voting
    • Patriotism - picture of a soldier in battle or someone reciting the Pledge of Allegiance
    • Equality - males and females involved in the same sport or activity
    • Diversity - picture of a variety of people from different backgrounds interacting
    • Truth - picture of scales
    • Justice - picture of a courtroom proceeding
    • Individual Rights - someone practicing their religious traditions or giving a speech
  3. Emphasize that the Core Democratic Values represent the ideals of protecting and promoting our democracy, but that often times in reality, citizens fall short. Ask students why they think adults and young people do not act on these values. Then point out the positive reality that countless individuals ARE promoting and protecting our democracy by giving their time, talent and treasure according to the Core Democratic Values.

  4. Give students the opportunity to research contemporary examples of young people who are modeling how to protect and promote our democracy by taking action based upon the Core Democratic Values. Have students work with a partner to find an example using one media (newspapers, magazines, Web sites, and books). See Bibliography for book and Web site sources. Local newspapers, as well as other newspapers may be used. An excellent magazine source would be National Geographic World in the "Kids Did It" section. Ask students to gather pertinent information using Democracy in "Bloom" Through Voluntary Action recording sheet (Attachment One).

  5. Once research is completed, have all students come together as a whole group to share the example they found of young people taking philanthropic action to enhance a Core Democratic Value, thus enhancing the common good. Once each pair of students has shared the information collected on their handout, ask the whole group to decide which value is being enhanced. You may wish to add a tree above the seeds displayed during the Anticipatory Set and then ask each pair of students to cut out their blossom and attach it to the corresponding "value" tree.


The assessment for this lesson will be in the form of a journal entry. Students will respond to the question, "Based on your talent(s) and/or interests, what could you do to enhance a Core Democratic Value, and which value would you enhance?" Students must respond with consideration of all facets of the question.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.10 Give historic and contemporary examples of a voluntary action by an individual or a private organization that has helped to enhance a fundamental democratic principle.
    2. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify and research public or social issues in the community, nation or the world related to the common good. Form an opinion, and develop and present a persuasive argument using communication tools.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.
      2. Benchmark MS.6 Identify and explain how fundamental democratic principles relate to philanthropic activities.