Was Nobel Noble? Meet the Man

6, 7, 8

This lesson introduces the students to Alfred Nobel and his legacy, the Nobel Peace Prize. Students will learn about the paradox between intent and purpose as related to Alfred Nobel, review the criteria used to award the Nobel Peace Prize and reflect on how they would like to be remembered in time. They will make the connection between philanthropy and core democratic values.

Lesson Rating 
PrintThree Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • list defining characteristics and actions of Alfred Nobel.
  • evaluate the purpose and criteria for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • explain how the common good benefits from philanthropy.
  • Large reproduction of the Nobel Peace Prize medal on a ribbon
  • Visual image of The Nobel Peace Prize Medal  found at http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/
  • A large stick of “dynamite” (a red cylinder with a string coming out one end)
  • Background Information on Alfred Nobel (Attachment)
  • Index cards with teacher-selected bits of information from the background information
  • Student copies of Nobel Peace Prize Information (Attachment)
  • Student copies of the excerpt of Alfred Nobel’s Will (Attachment)
  • Former Learning To Give Logo Symbolism (Attachment)
  • Heavy cardboard/poster board, gold paint, markers, old magazines to cut out pictures
  • Class Participation Rubric (Attachment)
  • Your Personal Banner Rubric (Attachment)
Home Connection 

Students are to ask an adult how they want to be remembered in 100 years.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    The teacher wears a replica of the Nobel Peace Prize around the neck or has it visible to the students, without explaining what it is until later in the lesson.

    Have the following items, or similar items, on a table in the front of the room: a toy car, a prescription bottle, sunglasses, phone, rope. Ask the students what these objects have in common. After answers are given, ask the students if these objects could be potentially harmful. Give the following examples of intent and possible extreme misuses:

  2. (toy) car: transportation or ability to kill

    sunglasses: block sun rays or hurt eyes

    drugs: heal or hurt

    phone: communication or harassment

    rope: pull someone out or tie up

  3. Explain to students that intention does not always equal the expected outcome. Sometimes the expected use shows an immediate and predictable effect. Sometimes the result is far reaching and not what was expected.

  4. Hold up the stick of “dynamite.” Ask the students why they think this was invented and who they think would invent it. After the class has brainstormed, begin the story of Alfred Nobel by passing out index cards with bits of information about Nobel on each from Background Information on Alfred Nobel. As each card is read by students, provide periodic reflection to see if the students can identify the person. Once all the cards are read, discuss the defining characteristics and actions of Alfred Nobel. Note that the intention and the results of his invention did not have the expected results, just as the inventions shared during the Anticipatory Set.

  5. Read the Alfred Nobel Will excerpt. What was established because of his Will? (the Nobel Prizes) The Will (and philanthropy) was how Alfred Nobel attempted to change his image in the world. Evaluate in small groups the criteria for awarding the Peace Prize. Hand out copies of Nobel Peace Prize Information and Alfred Nobel’s Will to each group. Come back together as a class and list how someone could be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

  6. Ask the students to define common good (for the benefit of all), perpetuity (continuing; a legacy lasting far into the future), intent (the expected end result) and philanthropy (sharing with others your time, talent or treasures). Ask students if they know some of the winners of the Nobel Peace Prize. If no one knows, have two or three examples of persons they may recognize to discuss (i.e., Jimmy Carter, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr.). Relate and discuss how the terms above apply to these winners, Alfred Nobel and his Will.

  7. Remind students that Nobel wanted to be remembered for his commitment to peace and he is now remembered this way through the award. This is his legacy. His memory has achieved perpetuity.

  8. Ask the students to think about how they would want to be remembered in 100 years. Discuss what the medal for the Peace Prize looks like using The Nobel Peace Prize Medal. What does the medal say about the person who receives it? What does it say about the person who gave it?

  9. Using the former Learning To Give Logo and Description, show and explain the symbolism in the original Learning To Give logo. Discuss the symbolism of the current Learning to Give "happle" logo.

  10. Tell the learners that they are to design their own personal banner or logo. Students are to select a quality, a cause or an action related to peace and the common good that they value (examples: kindness, equality, Red Cross). Students are then to design and create a personal banner, showing their belief in the quality, action or cause relating it to peace and the common good. If someone were to find your banner in 100 years, what would it say about you?

  11. List on the board what is required, explain the relevance (relationship to the common good), legacy, and the selected quality, cause or action you believe in, and give a specific due date for the assignment.


Students will participate in class discussions. Evaluate student participation using Class Participation Rubric (Attachment Six). Students will design and create a personal banner or logo, showing their belief in the quality, action or cause relating it to peace and the common good. Using heavy cardboard or poster board, students will design and make a personal banner that will show a quality, cause or action that they would like to be their legacy, related to peace and the common good. Teacher will evaluate the banner using Your Personal Banner Rubric (Attachment Seven). Students will informally describe the significance of the banner.

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 05. Role of Foundations
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Define perpetuity and endowment related to the role of foundations.
  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.5 Describe the responsibility students have to act in the civil society sector to improve the common good.
      3. Benchmark MS.6 Identify and explain how fundamental democratic principles relate to philanthropic activities.