Everyday Heroes Then and Now

6, 7, 8

Students will explain that a person does not have to be rich or famous to be considered a hero or philanthropist. In addition, students will discuss the impact of the Industrial Revolution on Kate Shelley and the town of Boone, Iowa in 1881.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Fifty-Five Minute Class Period

The learners will:

  • describe the effect of the Industrial Revolution on communities in the nineteenth century.
  • define hero and philanthropist, give a real-life example of each and describe how the persons selected meet the qualifications.
  • using the story Kate Shelley: Bound for Legend, describe how an ordinary person ’s selfless behavior can have a significant impact on a community.
  • The book, Kate Shelley: Bound for Legend, by Robert D. San Souci
  • The timeline of American Philanthropy https://www.learningtogive.org/resources/philanthropy-timeline 
Home Connection 

The learners should ask their families if they know of any everyday heroes or local philanthropists. They may share this information with the class at the next class meeting.

  • Philanthropy in America Timeline https://www.learningtogive.org/resources/philanthropy-timeline 
  • San Souci, Robert D.  Kate Shelley: Bound for Legend.  New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1995.  ISBN 0-8037


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Ask students, “What is your definition of a hero? Do you have to be famous to be a hero?” Remind students that there are many everyday heroes who take action in a crisis, such as firefighters. They should explain their response to the question, “Do you know an “everyday hero? Why do you consider this person a hero?” Have the learners write for five minutes answering these questions.

  2. Ask students to share some of their written answers. Discuss the meaning and examples of heroes.

  3. Then review the definition of a philanthropist with students. (In a civil society a philanthropist is a person who gives of his/her time, treasure and talent for the common good.) Again, pose the question: Do you have to be rich and famous, like Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey, to be a philanthropist? Have the learners explain. 

    Ask if they know any philanthropists who are their friends, come from their school, are a family member or come from the local community. They should explain why they consider these people to be philanthropists.

  4. Tell students that you are going to read them a story about an everyday hero named Kate Shelley who lived in Boone, Iowa in 1881. Before you read the story, view the Philanthropy Timeline and a historical timeline to see what events were occurring in 1881 in American history and philanthropy. Discuss the historical setting for this story, including the Industrial Revolution.

    This was a time in American history when goods were made by machines instead of by hand. This triggered the growth the factory system and many people made their living by working in factories instead of working on farms. Many inventions were made during this period in history. Tell students to pay attention to how the Industrial Revolution affected the people and town of Boone, Iowa in 1881. They should also be thinking about whether or not Kate Shelley should be considered a hero and philanthropist.

  5. Have students read the story Kate Shelley: Bound for Legend to the students. This will take about 25 minutes.

    After reading the story, ask these questions:

    1. How did the Industrial Revolution affect the people of Boone, Iowa and the Honey Creek area in 1881?
    2. What inventions changed the way people lived?
    3. How did a railroad stop in Boone and the Honey Creek area affect the local economy?
    4. What did many people in Moingana do for a living?
    5. How did the railroad play a part in the economy of Moingana?

    Discuss what Kate did to benefit others in the story. Have students determine which core democratic value(s) Kate’s actions indicated that she valued. Ask, “Would she fit your definition of a hero or philanthropist? Explain.”

  6. Refer students to their Anticipatory Set responses about heroes and philanthropists. Tell them that their exit ticket to leave the room is to write two paragraphs: one about an everyday hero and one about a local philanthropist. Each paragraph includes a specific example and why they consider this person to be a philanthropist or hero.


The assessment for this lesson is the two paragraphs about a philanthropist and hero. The paragraphs should include the definition and a specific supporting detail for each person chosen. 

Cross Curriculum 

Using their individual selections of local heroes and philanthropists, the learners will create an anthology of narratives to be donated to the elementary or middle school library.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
      1. Benchmark MS.7 Give an example of how the industrial revolution affected views on giving.
  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.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities and research.