Life Inspires Art Inspires Life

9, 10, 11, 12

The purpose of this session is to plan and develop a video documentary. Modeling their documentary after the West Michigan documentary The Gift of All, youth interview local philanthropists and create a multi-media story of their community and local philanthropy. Creating and sharing the documentary is an act of philanthropy as they teach and inspire others about philanthropy in the community.

PrintTwo 50-minute sessions, plus time to interview and create documentaries

The learner will:

  • identify characteristics of the local community.
  • work in a small production group to create a documentary.
  • research individuals and conduct interviews with local philanthropists.
  • copies of Handout: Local Philanthropist
  • copies of Handout: Documentary Planning Guide
  • copies of Handout: Interview Questions

The Gift of All: a Community of Givers, produced by The S.O.U.L. of Philanthropy along with The Grand Rapids Community Foundation and Calvin College. Copyright © Grand Rapids Public Library, City of Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2008, 2009. Streaming video available at


  1. Day One

    Anticipatory Set:

    Discuss what the word community means to members of the group.

  2. Create a concept map to define community while asking the following questions:

    • Who does a community include?
    • What purposes does a community serve?
    • What services does a community provide its members?
    • What services can a member provide for the community?
  3. Discuss the characteristics of your community that make it unique. Include places, physical traits, important people, population, popular qualities, weather, industries and attractions, historic events, recurring events, and shared values.

  4. Now it is our turn to tell stories of giving. The movie itself will be an act of philanthropy because it will be shared and make the community a better place as it honors civic virtue (the behaviors that promote the success of the community).

    Remind the students of Margaret Voss's statement: "We have to stand up because we saw it. We have the gift of the life we've lived that needs to be told."

  5. The youth work in small production groups of 5-8 people to create their documentaries. 

  6. In the small groups, they brainstorm individual philanthropists they will research, interview, and feature in their documentaries. The handout Local Philanthropist may guide their discussions. 

  7. Set a due date and provide guidelines for the final documentary. See handout Documentary Planning Guide. The small groups should start planning their interviews and research:

    • who they will interview
    • decide roles of each group member (camera, script, interviewer, phone contact, etc.)
    • discuss focus and storyline or script of documentary
  8. The handout Interview Questions is a starting place to talk about community and the value of philanthropy. They should choose the best 5-8 questions to ask in the interviews.

  9. During the next two or three weeks, the groups should arrange interviews, collect research, and write drafts of their projects. 

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.
    2. Standard DP 06. Role of Family in Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.3 Identify how subgroups and families in society demonstrate giving, volunteering, and civic involvement.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss and give examples of why some humans will sacrifice for the benefit of unknown others.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define and give examples of motivations for giving and serving.