Meeting Needs through Sharing

6, 7, 8

Raise learner's awareness and understanding of "homelessness" and difficulties people experience with poverty. The learners discuss the benefits of giving to others and reflect on ways they might address the needs of people living in poverty in their community.

PrintOne 50 minute class period

The learner will:

  • identify and define the terms poverty, homelessness, shelter, hunger, and philanthropy.
  • demonstrate an awareness of some of the problems and difficulties encountered by those who are "homeless."
  • identify ways to take action for people who are homeless in their community.
  • (Optional) take action to address an identified need at a local shelter and reflect on their experience.
Teacher Preparation 

It is important to be sensitive to the possibility that someone in your class may have some personal experience with homelessness, hunger and poverty.

Home Connection 

Send a letter to parents briefly describing the purpose of this lesson and if unable to schedule a class field trip to a shelter, encourage family members to accompany their child to a homeless shelter to make his/her donation (i.e. new or used items that can be of use at a shelter such as blankets, sheets, clothing, toiletries, books, etc.)



  1. Anticipatory Set: Create a KWL chart about the concept of homelessness (a three columned chart labeling the columns: What we KNOW/ What we WANT TO KNOW/ What we LEARNED) on a display area. Discuss and write the meaning of the words poverty, homelessness, shelter, hunger, and philanthropy. Then ask them to brainstorm everything they know (or think they know) about homelessness and/or people who are homeless in the "know" column. Then ask what they want to know about homelessness and note it on the second column.

  2. Tell the students that you are going to show them the "trailer" of the movie The Pursuit of Happyness, a movie based on a true story about a man named Christopher Gardner. Share this synopsis of the plot with the students: Christopher Gardner invested all his money in a medical device that doesn't sell or work well. As Gardner tries to figure out how to fix the broken device and sell the others, his wife leaves him, he loses his home, his bank account, and credit cards. He wants to be a stockbroker, but before he can receive pay, he needs to go through 6 months of training. He ends up homeless and is forced to live on the streets or in shelters with his son.

  3. Show the promotional trailerof the movie "The Pursuit of Happyness" starring Will Smith 

  4. After viewing the trailer ask them if there is anything they can add to the third column "Learned." Discuss attitudes people might have about homeless people and what this movie illustrates about dignity and empathy. Ask what help they think there is for people who are homeless or living in poverty. Introduce the idea of nonprofits and government assistance.   

  5. Distribute copies of "Homelessness" by Anna Quindlen. Explain to the class that Quindlan is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author who has written for the New York Time and Newsweek magazine, as well as authoring several best-selling novels. Read the essay aloud with the students. When finished go back to the KWL chart and add to the second and third columns again. Discuss the message of the essay.

  6. Distribute copies of the article "Explainer: Why Is Homelessness an Important Issue?" Ask students to read the article and then discuss it as a class and add to the KWL chart once again. Ask how their understanding of homelessness has changed and what else they want to LEARN.

  7. Point out to learners that a homeless situation is often the result of varied circumstances. Tell them that there is a saying that "each one of us is just one paycheck away from homelessness." Expand the discussion to include people who have a place to live but whose financial situation is not stable or sufficient for their needs. 

  8. Have the learners share what might be some of the challenges people who are homeless or living in poverty face besides not having a place in which to live. Encourage them to think especially about people their age. Things like school supplies and hygeine items may be difficult to purchase. People may feel anxiety and fear of not meeting the needs of their family. 

  9. Share some statistics about homelessness, hunger, and poverty in your own community. If possible, invite a guest from a local nonprofit organization to speak to the class about their work and the needs they have to help people who are homeless or living with poverty and hunger. 

  10. Place the word philanthropy on the display board. Have the learners share their understanding of the word and how it might impact the issues of homelessness, hunger, and poverty. (Definition of Philanthropy: giving time, talent and/or treasure for the sake of another or for the common good.)

  11. Guide a discussion of things they might do as a class to contribute to the quality of someone else's life. Encourage them to think about the things that young people might miss out on if their family cannot afford them. This might include collecting and donating school supplies to a local nonprofit or school where there is a need. Or they could design learning or art activities to do with children of families who visit a soup kitchen. Or they could donate gently used picture books for families with young children. 

    Brainstorm ideas on sticky notes and let the students help group ideas that are similar. Allow for a discussion of the ideas and facilitate the class in coming to consensus on a service-learning project.

  12. Plan the service-learning project with the students, giving them responsibility for breaking the plan into steps and holding one another accountable to complete the steps in a timeline.

  13. After the action, have the students share their project with others at the school in a demonstration and reflection activity. This may be an assembly with pictures and stories.

Cross Curriculum 

Students come to a concensus on voluntary action to address an identified need related to poverty, hunger, and homelessness.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Give examples of how individuals have helped others.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Give examples of needs not met by the government, business, or family sectors.
      2. Benchmark MS.6 Identify significant contributions to society that come from the civil society sector.
    3. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Describe how a specific civil society organization in the community operates.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Describe the importance of hearing all voices in a community and respecting their right to be heard.
    2. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark MS.14 Describe and give an example of needs not usually met by the government sector.
      2. Benchmark MS.7 Give examples of common resources in the community.
    3. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify and research public or social issues in the community, nation or the world related to the common good. Form an opinion, and develop and present a persuasive argument using communication tools.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define and give examples of the motivations for giving and serving.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Identify and describe the actions of how citizens act for the common good.
      3. Benchmark MS.5 Describe the responsibility students have to act in the civil society sector to improve the common good.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.