Dear Young Philanthropist

9, 10, 11, 12

After researching the life and work of a chosen philanthropist from history, the learner takes on the role of that philanthropist in writing a letter to the learner. In this letter, the philanthropist discusses his/her motivations and feelings about his/her work, and compares and contrasts his/her work with the philanthropic work of the learner. The learner also prepares his/her previously created visual presentation and the letter s/he has written for public display.

PrintOne fifty minute class period

The learner will:

  • summarize the life and work of a previously researched philanthropist in the form of a letter s/he writes in the role of that philanthropist.
  • compare and contrast the work of the philanthropist with the philanthropic work in which s/he is (or plans to be) involved.
  • Clear contact paper and scissors for “laminating” previously created displays and letters
  • Student Reading Packets – see Homework


  1. Anticipatory Set: Write the class’ definitions of “philanthropy” and “philanthropist” on the board and ask the class to consider how they, as individuals, have acted philanthropically. Instruct the class to write a short list of their philanthropic acts. (Note: The teacher may need to make suggestions, for example, babysitting or lawn work for neighbors, participating in school or community-sponsored charity events, writing a letter to a public official.)

  2. Using their personal lists and Note Taker's Guide (Handouts One and Two from Lesson Two) as references, learners should take on the role of the philanthropist they studied to write a letter.The letter should include a summary of his/her life and work and compare/contrast the philanthropist’s work with that of the learner.

  3. Have the students incorporate the letter into the previous research report and present both to the class

  4. After finishing the letter and presentation, students should prepare their reports for presentation at school and/or public functions, for example, in the local library, at a “Make a Difference Day” celebration, or at a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration.

  5. Explain the Homework assignment. Homework: Readings on Civil Society/Civic Value: Provide students with a packet of the edited readings from the following famous scholars/philanthropists, and Handout One:

    Reading Guide.

    1.Democracy in America—Alexis de Tocqueville Learning to Give Briefing Paper

    2.Gospel of Wealth—Andrew Carnegie Full Text of Gospel of Wealth

    3.Hull House Papers— Jane Addams Learning to Give Briefing Paper

    4.The Duties of American Citizenship—Teddy Roosevelt Stewardship 

  6. Assign one reading per night for all students to read and answer all questions on the corresponding reading study questions (Handout: Reading Guide).

Cross Curriculum 

Students prepare visual presentations on their chosen philanthropist for public and school display. These presentations can be set up for “Make A Difference Day” celebrations, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, or various school sponsored events and posted on the school-class web page. The displays are suitable for use in local libraries, city hall, or other public buildings.


Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Identify and discuss examples of philanthropy and charity in modern culture.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.4 Describe and give examples of characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss civic virtue and its role in democracy.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.10 Identify reasons why historic figures acted for the common good.
      2. Benchmark HS.4 Cite historical examples of citizen actions that affected the common good.