Speaking of the Community--Step One: Identify the Problem

6, 7, 8

Students are introduced to philanthropy and service-learning. They learn about different needs in the community and community organizations that address these needs. Students are introduced to the full scope of the Project Based Learning (PBL) project. They establish the "Knows and Need to Knows" for the project.

PrintTwo 45-Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • define philanthropy as "the giving of one's time, talent or treasure or taking voluntary action for the common good ."
  • select issue areas of interest to address through a project.
  • brainstorm examples of ways to share their time, talent, and treasure or take action for the common good.
  • student copies of handouts
  • index cards or paper for Exit Tickets (see Assessment for explanation of exit tickets)
Teacher Preparation 

In advance of Day One, contact local nonprofit organizations to invite them to speak to youth (in small break-out sessions) about their mission and why their services are important in the community. Invite someone from the local community foundation or a local philanthropists who can speak to the whole class about the importance of philanthropy, volunteering, and civic engagement.

  • philanthropy: the giving of one's time, talent or treasure or taking voluntary action for the common good.
  • service-learning: goes beyond volunteerism, community service and youth service by connecting the service experience to the school curriculum and by requiring students to reflect on the meaning they attach to the service they performed.
  • common good: working together with other members of the community for the greater benefit of all; promoting the welfare of the community.
  • project-based learning (PBL): the use of in-depth and rigorous classroom projects to facilitate learning and assess student competence. Students use technology and inquiry to respond to a complex issue, problem or challenge. PBL focuses on student-centered inquiry and group learning with the teacher acting as facilitator.
  • community needs: conditions that are essential to improving a community.
Home Connection 

For homework after Day One, students ask parents/guardians/neighbors about service projects or volunteering with which they participate. Students gather information from their parents/guardians/neighbors about potential service organizations and issue areas and needs to address in the community.


The exit ticket serves as a reflection.


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Have a guest speaker from a local community foundation speak to the class about the importance of philanthropy, volunteering, and civic engagement. Encourage the speaker to give specific examples of community needs that cannot be met by government and business, and need intervention from the civil society sector.

  2. Day One:

    After the initial guest speaker presentation, set up booths where other guest speakers share information about the mission and work of their specific nonprofit organizations.

  3. Have students break out into small groups and visit with the other speakers on a rotating or choice basis. (This could also be spread out among classrooms with students changing classrooms to visit speakers about issue areas that are important to them.)

  4. Students complete an exit ticket after attending sessions. See Assessment below.

  5. Day Two:

  6. Students complete the Problem Statement (Handout One) to explain how they plan to address the driving question of "How can students create positive change in our community?" This may start out as individual or small group brainstorming, and may end up as a class problem statement. The class may agree on one statement (which can change as the project develops), or they may decide to work in two or more smaller groups.

  7. Students will also complete Handout Two:"Knows and Need to Knows" either as a class or in small groups.

  8. If students struggle with developing ideas, have them reference Handout Three: "A Dozen Types of Community Needs."


Exit ticket At the end of Day One, have students submit an index card as they exit the room. On the card, the student defines philanthropy in his or her own words and describes the community need that interests him or her the most. The ideas arise from the different speakers presenting on different issue areas.

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. 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.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. 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.
  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.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.
    2. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities and research.