Cultural Connections

9, 10, 11, 12

Students read and share information about service and volunteering in different cultures. They compare and contrast the work and mission of four famous philanthropists: Cesar Chavez, George Washington Carver, Sunderlal Buhuguna, and Abdul Sattar Edhi. They identify the motivations, impact, and attitudes about service, and start to clarify their personal attitudes about service through writing a personal mission statement.

PrintThree Fifty-Minute Class Periods

The student will:

  • read and share information about service and volunteering in different cultures.
  • discuss how traditions in cultures influence attitudes about giving and serving.
  • discuss personal reasons for giving and serving.
  • read about four famous individuals who served their "community" and impacted history.
  • compare and contrast the background, motivations, and community impact of Edhi, Bahunguna, Carver, and Chavez.
  • brainstorm ideas for things the students can do to serve the community with their talents, motivations, and treasure.
  • write a core-beliefs mission statement.
  • completed homework from the previous lesson for discussion on Day One
  • copies of Handout One: Four Biographies for each student
  • Optional: access to computers and mind mapping software, such as Inspiration or FreeMind
  • copies of Handout Two: What Can I Give? for each student or pair of students
  • copies of Handout Three: Personal Mission Statement for each student


  1. Day One:

    Anticipatory Set:

    Write one or all of the following quotes on the board. Have the students each choose one quote for reflection. Tell the students to think about what the quote means in the context of the previous lesson's discussion of valuing diversity. Have students pair up with someone who chose the same quote. The pairs of students share thoughts for a minute. Then ask for volunteers to explain to the class what the quotes mean to them.

    "We really are fifteen different countries and it's really remarkable that each of us thinks we represent the real America. The midwesterner in Kansas, the black American in Durham—both are certain they are the real American." --Maya Angelou

    "I am what time, circumstance, history, have made of me, certainly, but I am also, much more than that. So are we all." --James Baldwin

    "The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class—it is the cause of human kind, the very birthright of humanity." --Anna Julia Cooper

    "America is woven of many strands. I would recognize them and let it so remain. Our fate is to become one, and yet many. This is not prophecy, but description." --Ralph Ellison

  2. Tell the students to put their homework article and their four-bullet written summary on their desktop. Tell the students to walk around the room desk-by-desk and read the summaries, taking notes to remember key points they will discuss with the whole group. They should look for similarities and differences between cultural attitudes and practices related to giving and serving.

  3. After reading all of the summaries, back at their seats, students discuss observations about similarities and differences they observed in the different cultural perspectives on giving, service, and volunteering. Ask students to recall perspectives they identify with or appreciate, whether from their culture or another culture. Discuss common reasons why people choose to serve. Encourage students to take notes in order to use some ideas in their personal mission statements. (They will be writing this later in the unit.)

  4. Discuss the following statement: "Cultural practices that make us unique also serve to connect people across boundaries." Students may refer to the homework papers or summaries to review and clarify the points of view of different cultures represented.

  5. Day Two:

    Anticipatory Set:

    Play a YouTube or Teacher Tube video about Cesar Chavez. (See Bibliographical References.) Say, "What do you think caused Cesar Chavez to work harder or be more effective than others for civil rights for his people?" Discuss the student responses. (They may cite early experiences, family, training, role models, passion for justice, etc.)

  6. Hand out copies of Handout One: Four Biographies. Ask four students to read aloud to the class the biographies on Cesar Chavez, George Washington Carver, Abdul Sattar Edhi, and Sunderlal Bahuguna while everyone listens (and follows along). Have the students listen for the similarities and differences between the work, motivations, and passions of these four different people. See Bibliographical References for a list of YouTube and Teacher Tube videos/slideshows with further information about Chavez and Carver.

  7. Assign students to small groups or partners. Each team creates a diagram, such as a Venn or H diagram, comparing and contrasting two of the individuals they just read about. They may create a diagram by hand or use mind-mapping software (such as Inspiration or a free mind-mapping software, such as Freemind). Write the following list on the board for students to include in their compare/contrast diagrams: work/goals, background/motivations, influences, impact, culture, and methods.

  8. After students complete their diagrams, discuss the following question: How does the person's traditional culture influence his advocacy and dedication to the cause?

  9. Day Three:

    Anticipatory Set:

    Tell the learners about Sarah Cronk, an Iowa student who started a cheerleading squad for girls with special needs. Sarah was inspired when she saw the life of her brother with special needs enriched by his involvement in sports. (See article in Bibliographical References.) Show this article and photos of Sarah encouraging teens to get involved in service.

  10. Remind the learners that people get involved in service for many reasons (ask them to recall some motivations). Sarah Cronk got involved in her service project because she had a personal interest in young people with special needs. Ask the learners to think about their own motivations (based on their interests, experiences, culture, etc.).

  11. Give each student or pair of students a copy of Handout One: What Can I Give? Have them fill it out with things or skills they have that could help address each issue of concern. Encourage creative, out-of-the-box thinking because this list is a brainstorm, not a commitment. After five or ten minutes, tell the students to choose the issue they feel most interested in pursuing.

  12. Tell the learners that they will each write a personal mission statement in which they articulate what is important to them, especially related to service. Give each learner a copy of Handout Two: Personal Mission Statement as a guide. The handout asks them to identify three words they would put after their name that tells who they are. Provide examples of names followed by titles or credentials that describe who they are or what they do (Barbara Smith, director; Robert Upton, Ph.D.; Carlos Ruiz, master gardener). Have learners choose three words to follow their name that tell others who they are.

  13. Learners will need to bring their written mission statements to the next meeting of this class, because in the next class period they are each going to create a visual/auditory version of this mission statement.


The homework assignment includes four points in complete sentences and demonstrates understanding of the philanthropic perspective. Observe student participation in discussions to evaluate level of understanding. Evaluate student diagrams, What I Can Give chart, and mission statements for careful and complete thoughts.

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. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Identify how subgroups and families in society demonstrate giving, volunteering, and civic involvement.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss and give examples of why some humans will sacrifice for the benefit of unknown others.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Analyze philanthropic traditions of diverse cultural groups and their contributions to civil society.
    3. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.12 Explain why private action is important to the protection of minority voices.
      2. Benchmark HS.4 Identify and discuss civil society sector organizations working to protect individual rights, equity, and justice.
  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.
      2. Benchmark HS.3 Describe and compare stewardship in a variety of cultural traditions.