1765 to the Declaration of Independence

6, 7, 8

Learners will describe the actions of citizens during the American Revolution as patriotic and philanthropic.

Lesson Rating 
PrintThree Fifty-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • describe conditions that led American colonists to revolt against the British.
  • name core democratic values identified in the Declaration of Independence.
  • explain how the patriotic actions of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were philanthropic.
  • The video of Johnny Tremain (see Bibliographical References)
  • Johnny Tremain Study Guide (Handout One), learner copies
  • Johnny Tremain Study Guide Answer Key (Handout Two)
  • Declaration of Independence (Excerpts) (Handout Three), learner copies
  • Signers of the Declaration of Independence (Handout Four), learner copies
Home Connection 

None for this lesson.


Interactive John Trumbell's Declaration of Independence http://www.quiz-tree.com/Declaration-of-Independence-Trumbull.html Hover over the painting to identify the signers of the Declaration of Independence

Johnny Tremain. DVD, Disney  ASIN: B000OE4F44, also available as instant video on Amazon.com

The Connecticut Society of the Sons of the American Revolution https://www.connecticutsar.org/the-price-they-paid/ The Web site refers to the signers of the Declaration of Independence and their history. 

The History Channel. https://www.history.com/ Search for videos and other information on the signers of the Declaration of Independence on this website. 


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    There are many examples of people who give of their time, talent or treasure for the common good (philanthropists). Some of them may be famous or become well-known, but often, most of them are citizens who feel the need to step up and do what needs to be done. Explain that, in our country's history, one such time was the American Revolutionary War, including those events that led to it.

  2. Distribute Johnny Tremain Study Guide (Handout One). Show the video Johnny Tremain . Have the learners work on the study guide while watching the film. Discuss the answers to describe the times, the people and the historical events that were detailed in the story. Clarify fictional characters and historical characters.

  3. Following the film have the learners break into groups to analyze the characters, determining their motives for taking the actions they did. Then have the learners define the role of the Minutemen and describe how their actions could categorize them as philanthropists.

  4. Provide the learners with the Declaration of Independence (Excerpts) (Handout Three) and discuss what core democratic values are contained in it. Let the learners give examples of how citizens act philanthropically as a result of the words of this founding document.

  5. Distribute copies of Signers of the Declaration of Independence (Handout Four). Explain that the signers of the Declaration of Independence knew the risks of signing their names to the document, yet they acted for the common good by doing so anyway. Have the learners go online to a search engine, type in “signers of the Declaration of Independence,” and conduct a search for information about the brave men who signed the Declaration of Independence. Let the learners each note what three signers went on to do, both during the war and after. (Information will not be detailed in most cases.) Many of them went on to lead their states as part of the young nation. Report on the information that is found.


Completion of the study guide, group discussions and research reporting will assess learning.

Cross Curriculum 

None for this lesson.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Identify the philanthropic ideas embedded in a nation's founding documents.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.6 Describe how the founding documents and fundamental democratic principles encourage citizens to act philanthropically.