Community by Community

6, 7, 8

This lesson may be used with units where students study other countries of the world. In addition to the usual study of climate, resources, and physical and human characteristics of the place being studied, learners will investigate philanthropy, especially related to community solutions to health and human service issues. They meet a representative of a local United Way agency and compare the local United Way effort to programs in other countries.


Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo or Three Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • describe physical and human characteristics of the nation being studied.
  • research a United Way program in a country being studied.
  • compare its health and human service programs to programs in the local community.

The United Way in the World Chart (handout)

Home Connection 

Students ask their parents if there are United Way funding campaigns at their job-sites. They will also be asked to describe any services in the community provided by United Way of which they are aware.



  1. NOTE: Arrange in advance for a visit by a guest speaker from the local United Way.

    Anticipatory Set:

    Put the following phrase on the board: "mobilizing the caring power of communities to advance the common good." Tell the students that this is the mission of a well known nonprofit organization. Ask them to deduct from the statement what kind of work this organization does. Ask what hints there are. 

    The full mission statement of United Way: United Way improves lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities around the world to advance the common good. Go on their website together and investigate the work of the United Way locally and globally.

  2. If you are already studying a specific country, ask students to verbally review what they know about that country by the five themes of geography:

    • Location:
      • Relative location of the country
      • Absolute location of the country
  3. Place:

    • Physical characteristics of the country
    • Human characteristics of the country
  4. Human-Environment Interaction

    • How people adapt to their environment
    • How the location has been changed to fit human needs
  5. Movement

    • Of people
    • Of products
    • Of ideas (communication)
  6. Regions

    • That nation is a part of what region(s)?
    • Characteristics of that region
  7. Put the word "philanthropy" on the chalkboard. Define philanthropy as "individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, or treasure and taking action for the common good throughout history and around the world."

    Tell the students that the United States has a long tradition of philanthropy - people taking responsibility to make the community, country, and world a better place. Ask students for examples (Colonists sacrificing for the sake of community, volunteer firefighters, free libraries, Civil Rights Movement).

  8. Put the following question on the board: "How does a community handle day-to-day and emergency problems?"

    Using the geography theme called "Place," ask the learners to think about the kinds of problems that any nation might have to face day after day or when emergencies happen. (poverty, low levels of learning, poor health care, inadequate housing, lack of clean water, lack of jobs, hurricanes/tornadoes, floods, war, malnutrition, etc.)

    Thinking about the country they have been studying, ask the learners to predict what kinds of problems might face the people of that country. Put the list on the chalkboard. Once the list is generated, have students describe or name "who" or "what organization" might be responsible for handling each problem.

  9. Explain that the problems are handled by all three sectors of the economy: government, business, and the nonprofit (volunteer) sector. Often, government cannot handle problems alone. Each sector approaches issues in a different way.

    Governments provide resources to meet the needs of the majority. Nonprofits fill in where the government cannot meet needs, such as in the needs of a small group or in an area where there isn't general support. 

  10. The United Way is one nonprofit that can be found in most communities and countries. This includes many sub-categories of organizations: Red Cross, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Girl Scouts, and YMCA. 

    Homework: Tell students to explain to their parents that they are looking at the work of the United Way in the local community and in the world. Ask them whether their parents' work location participates in the United Way drive. How is it done? Additionally, ask students to ask their parents to describe any community services of which they are aware that are provided by United Way agencies.

  11. Day Two

    Ask students to share the information about United Way that their parents discussed. Explain that this is a type of philanthropy in which the limited financial resources of the community are pooled to meet its needs. 

    • Arrange students into small groups. Distribute The United Way in the World Chart (handout). Using the Internet, students go to the United Way website and select the country/countries they have been studying. 
    • They complete the chart from the website. Have them analyze whether United Way (nonprofit) works alongside or separate from the government sector of the country.
    • In addition, students go to the Relief Web website to see what emergencies and humanitarian efforts are in the country they are studying. Note whether help was being provided by the government, business, or nonprofit sector. Are any United Way agencies involved or providing support? Post the news announcements in a display in the room. Discuss the information collected and the value of the work of the United Way.
  12. Invite a representative of the local United Way to speak with the class.

    Teacher Note: Prior to his or her arrival, you may choose to send a copy of The United Way in the World Chart so that information needed in column three can be addressed. Also suggest that the guest address any connection the local United Way has with emergencies in the community.)

  13. Have students complete column three on the chart with the information provided by the guest. In a whole group discussion compare and contrast the local United Way with the one researched in the country being studied and discuss the importance of the work of the local United Way.


The chart and news announcement may be used to determine student learning. Ask students to complete a short essay answering the following question: "How does (name country) and our community (name city) handle day-to-day and emergency problems?"

Cross Curriculum 

Find out the needs of the United Way and take action as a class to meet a need. That may include telling others about needs or raising money.

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. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark MS.13 Describe how philanthropy can reallocate limited resources to meet human needs.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how civil-society-sector giving can impact communities.
    2. Standard PCS 04. Philanthropy and Geography
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Identify and describe civil society organizations whose purpose is associated with issues relating to "human characteristics of place."
    3. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Discuss a public policy issue affecting the common good and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.