Jackie Robinson, A Black Hero

3, 4, 5

This lesson will introduce the children to a hero whose actions changed the course of history. Students will describe what they learned about being a hero and relate some of the characteristics of heroes to a personal hero. 

Lesson Rating 
Print45-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • explain how one person can make a significant difference in the lives of many others, while acting for the common good.
  • describe Jackie Robinson's personal courage in opening the door for other black professional sports players.
  • demonstrate through writing that citizens have a responsibility for the common good.
  • The Children's Book of Heroes by William J. Bennett
  • Student copies of Handout: Jackie Robinson Quiz (Spanish version, Handout Two)
  • Drawing paper for designing a postage stamp
  • Picture of Jackie Robinson (optional)
  • Baseball, baseball cap, mitt, or bat


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Have the students take a multiple-choice quiz about Jackie Robinson (handout) as a pre-test.

  2. Read the story of Jackie Robinson from The Children's Book of Heroes. (May use another resource describing his experiences.) Discuss the challenges Robinson faced and how he responded to the challenges. In what ways is Jackie Robinson a hero? How did he affect the future of baseball?

  3. Have a discussion about Jackie Robinson and incorporate the following:
    • Discuss the importance of showing respect for others.
    • What actions were examples of Mr. Robinson acting for the common good?
    • How has he helped to enhance a core democratic value?
    • Is acting for the common good always easy? Always popular? What are the benefits?
    • What are the challenges of acting for the common good?
  4. Look at current events and discuss the impact of Jackie Robinson's advocacy on today. In what way was he a hero?

  5. Brainstorm as a class the characteristics of a hero. List these on the board. Prompt students to think not only of Jackie Robinson, but also of their own heroes and heroes in the community. Guide the students to form a working definition of a hero.

  6. The class will create a classroom or hallway bulletin board or display, gathering and recording information about the life of Jackie Robinson. Have the students look for images, facts, essays, and statistics about Jackie Robinson. As they collect data, they can respond thoughtfully to the information in some way: through art, poems, essays, etc. Be sure to teach the students about proper documentation of sources.

  7. Discuss the definition of philanthropy and talk about the responsibility of--and benefits to--citizens to act for the common good. Ask students to write a paragraph defending the statement that "one person can make a difference." What does it mean and what evidence is there that it is true?

  8. The post office has put the images of many great people on postage stamps as a tribute to their contributions to society. Ask each student to think of a personal hero who matches some of the listed characteristics. Have each student design a stamp for his or her hero. Below their stamps, students should write about the hero, identifying three characteristics of that person that makes him or her a hero.


Students will take a short quiz about the life of Jackie Robinson. They will research and summarize information about the life of Jackie Robinson. The paragraph should demonstrate their understanding of the importance and responsibility of citizens to act for the common good. Students will design a postage stamp of a personal hero and write about the attributes of the hero.

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. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.5 Identify one local citizen who has helped the community through giving and/or service.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.2 Discuss the importance of respect for others.
    3. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark E.10 Give an example of an action by an individual or a private organization that has helped to enhance a fundamental democratic principle.