Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Forty-Five Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • analyze the relationship between “community need” and “private action.”
  • identify needs that exist in his or her home, school, or community.
  • brainstorm opportunities that are available to help meet those needs.
  • identify at least one act they would like to undertake to make the world a better place in which to live.
  • A River Ran Wild by Lynne Cherry.Story summary: The setting of this story is the Nashua River. As the decades pass, the reader sees how the river changes from a peaceful clean river to a polluted river. Changes occur along the banks of the river - some good and some bad. The reader can compare the changing river from decade to decade, pointing out citizen involvement that helps restore the river in the end. As a suggestion, read the first several pages as a whole class. Guide the discussion emphasizing good citizenship qualities and ones that need improving. (Pre-read before reading with children.)
  • A River Ran Wild Guide student worksheet (see Handout One). As a suggestion, guide students through Questions 3 and 4. Brainstorm as a class possible plans of action and the resulting effects.
  • What Would You Do? Student worksheet (see Handout Two).

Have the students write a paragraph about their personal experience using this prompt, or something similar:  “This service project was like a chocolate chip cookie and a glass of milk because…”



Cherry, Lynne.  A River Ran Wild: An Environmental History. San Diego: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1992.  ISBN: 0152005420.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Pre-assess students. Have students complete the “What Would You Do?” worksheet (see Handout Two) and discuss students’ ideas of being a helpful citizen.

  2. Read A River Ran Wild. Using A River Ran Wild Guide (see Handout One), discuss the needs in the communities surrounding the Nashua River as it changed over time, the effects of the developing communities on the river, and the actions that were taken to restore the river. Guide students through Questions 3 and 4. Brainstorm as a class possible plans of action and the resulting effects.

  3. After reading and discussing the story, focus on the aspect of philanthropy in a community. Determine the elements of a healthy (good-working) community; see description of Chief Weewa’s village. Explain that citizens need to take action in their community when a need arises. The descendants of Chief Weewa and a group of people recognized the need to clean the river and took action. People can act by contributing treasures or talents.

  4. Discuss the meaning of private action for the common good. Have individual students list on a graphic organizer all the “philanthropic” activities that already occur in their homes, in their school, or in their community.

  5. Elicit from students needs (at home, in the neighborhood, in the school, in the community) and brainstorm opportunities to fulfill the need. Discuss the possibilities students have if they choose to take action. Use the following questions to help students.

    • What is the need?
    • Who has the need?
    • Who is in the community?
    • Who fills the need?
    • What talent or treasure was given or shared?
    • What goodness does the community experience from that giving or sharing?
    • What is the reward for the one who shared?
    • What would have happened if the need were not met?
Cross Curriculum 

Students conduct a needs assessment and make a plan to address a small need.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Give examples of needs met by government, business, civil society, and family.
    3. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe how citizens organize in response to a need.