Connecting Philanthropy and Identity through Children's Literature and Song

9, 10, 11, 12

Students will be introduced to philanthropy and the non-profit sector in their community. Discussion will center on the idea that personal identity can be shaped by involvement in philanthropy. Children's literature and popular music will be used in this lesson.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne Fifty-Minute Class Period

The learners will:

  • define philanthropy and non-profit sector.
  • speculate about how being involved in philanthropy can shape one’s identity.
  • The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein (see Bibliographical References)
  • Lyrics and a recording of “The Man in the Mirror” by Michael Jackson
Home Connection 

Students may observe their own lives and/or television shows to observe how the characters are either selfish or selfless.

  • Garrett, Siedah and Glen Ballard. “Man in the Mirror” from Bad. Sony: Performed by Michael Jackson. Original Release Date: August 31, 1987. Audio CD, October 16, 2001. B00005QGAY. Lyrics retrieved from
  • Silverstein, Shel. The Giving Tree. New York: Harper & Row, 1964. ISBN: 0-06- 025665-6


  1. Anticipatory Set:Play Michael Jackson’s “The Man in the Mirror” twice. Let the students listen the first time without saying anything. After the first playing, ask the students to try to find the meaning of the song while they listen a second time. Discuss with the students the meaning of the song.

  2. Write selfish and selfless on the board in large letters. Have students come to the board and write examples of what they believe is the meaning of each of these words. Explain that being selfless is putting others’ well being above your own. Some examples of being selfless are volunteering and being active in the non-profit sector. Define non-profit sector as “any not-for-profit organizations that are not part of the government or any company that tries to make a profit. These agencies are created for the purpose of helping others.” Solicit examples from the learners. Give students the following definition of philanthropy: giving and sharing, volunteering and private individual action intended for the common good. Consider showing the following short video to discuss more ideas about philanthropy. 

  3. Read the book, The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein aloud to the class. Connect this book to the students’ lives, asking for personal examples of how it feels to give to others or ask from others. Ask students if they consider themselves to be givers or takers and ask how each identity role makes the students feel.

  4. Assess students’ understanding of the key concepts (philanthropy and non-profit sector) through teacher directed class discussion.


Assess students’ understanding of the key concepts (philanthropy and non-profit sector) through class discussion and teacher directed class discussion.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define philanthropy to include giving and sharing; volunteering; and private individual action intended for the common good. Explain how a volunteer individual/group can act for the common good.
      2. Benchmark HS.2 Identify and discuss examples of philanthropy and charity in modern culture.