Ben Franklin, The Good Citizen—Benjamin Franklin's Contributions to Philadelphia

3, 4, 5

To show how active citizens can make a difference in a community.

Lesson Rating 
Print2-3 class periods

The Learnerwill:

  • identify several of Benjamin Franklin's contributions to Philadelphia.
  • compare and contrast the effectiveness of teamwork (citizen involvement).
  • Social Studies text or reference materials highlighting Ben Franklin's contributions to Philadelphia and the bucket brigade
  • Literature on Benjamin Franklin
  • Ben Franklin's Philadelphia student sheet (see Attachment One).
  • Bucket Brigade game and student activity cards, Calling All Volunteers, Our City Needs Your Help! (see Attachment Two).
  • Web site
  • Bucket Brigade activity cards


  1. Anticipatory Set:Read about Benjamin Franklin's contributions to Philadelphia

  2. Discuss the qualities Franklin possessed making him a good citizen.

  3. In small groups, have the students complete the Ben Franklin's Philadelphia Student Sheet (see Attachment One).

  4. Have each group present their work to the total class and discuss.

  5. After this discussion, focus on the aspect of volunteering in the community. In Philadelphia colonial times there was a great need for philanthropic behavior in the management of fires. (Even today, most men and women who fight fires are volunteers.) Students need to understand that these people are volunteering not only time and talent, but also risk their own lives to help others in the community.

  6. Students reflect orally about the difficulties of living in a colonial town and the eminent danger of fire. Ask students how they could have contributed or volunteered in colonial times, with talent, time, or action.

  7. Students participate in a bucket brigade game to discover that it takes more than a notion to be an active citizen. Compare how the two different methods of putting out a fire demonstrated philanthropy by making a comparison chart. Students should realize the first method was not very successful because not many people were philanthropic. The second bucket brigade style was successful because everyone worked for the common good.


Teacher observation of student participation. Completion of at least five examples on the Ben Franklin Philadelphia Student Sheet (see Attachment One). After Bucket Brigade activity, have students record their responses to the following questions: What was the need? Who had the need? Who was in the community? Who filled the need? What talent or treasure was given or shared? What goodness does the community experience from that giving or sharing? What is the reward for the one who shared? What would have happened if the need were not met?

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.3 Recognize that citizens have a responsibility for the common good as defined by democratic principles.
    2. Standard DP 02. Roles of Government, Business, and Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Give examples of needs met by government, business, civil society, and family.
      2. Benchmark E.6 Explain why acting philanthropically is good for the community, state, nation, or world.
    3. Standard DP 03. Names and Types of Organizations within the Civil Society Sector
      1. Benchmark E.2 Name an example of a civil society charitable organization.
    4. Standard DP 04. Operational Characteristics of Nonprofit Organizations
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe how citizens organize in response to a need.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.3 Describe a benefit of group cooperation.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define community as the degree that people come together for the common good.
      2. Benchmark E.10 Give an example of an action by an individual or a private organization that has helped to enhance a fundamental democratic principle.
      3. Benchmark E.3 Discuss the importance of personal virtue, good character, and ethical behavior in a democracy.
    3. Standard PCS 06. Philanthropy in History
      1. Benchmark E.1 Give an example of philanthropic action that influenced the history of the state or region.
      2. Benchmark E.2 Give an example of an individual who used social action to remedy an unjust condition.
      3. Benchmark E.6 Trace the historic roots of philanthropy in the nation's history.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe one reason why a person might give or volunteer.
      2. Benchmark E.10 Identify reasons why historic figures acted for the common good.
      3. Benchmark E.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.