Unsung Heroes (The)

6, 7, 8

Students will describe the work of foundations and nonprofits, identify local foundations in the community, and explain why the people connected with these organizations can be considered local heroes.

Lesson Rating 
PrintThree Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learners will:

  • describe those characteristics that make up a hero.
  • define and use vocabulary related to foundations.
  • describe the purpose and projects of various foundations.
  • report on the work of a local foundation.
  • CD player
  • CD of "The Wind Beneath My Wings"
  • Class copies of lyrics to Wind Beneath My Wings. Can be found at www.thelyricarchive.com/lyrics/windbeneathmywings.shtml
  • Class copies of Heroes Informational Web (Handout One)
  • Class copies of Foundation Worksheet (Handout Two)
  • Computer(s) with Internet access
  • Class copies of “Foundations DayArticle Rubrics (Handout Three) Spanish version (Handout Four)
  • camera
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework:Information will be sent home to parents explaining the lessons. A parent permission letter to use students’ pictures in the final publication is included.

  • Henley, Larry and Jeff Silbar. Wind Beneath My Wings. Performed by Bette Midler. Atlantic. Audio CD Single. (June 11, 1992) Original Release Date: 1979 ASIN: B000002JHI


  1. Anticipatory Set: Play the recording “The Wind Beneath My Wings” for the students. Instruct the students to listen carefully to the words of the song. Play the recording a second time, this time distributing song sheets with the words to the students and having them sing along. After the song has been played and sung, ask students for their interpretation of the song. Record responses on chart paper.

  2. Briefly evaluate students’ responses. Distribute Heroes Informational Web (Attachment One) and ask the question, “From listening to the song and the discussion, in your opinion, who can be a hero?” Record students’ responses on chart paper as they also record the responses on their individual graphic organizers.

  3. Introduce the term foundation. Explain that it is a nonprofit charitable organization that supports charitable activities in order to serve the common good. Make sure students understand the difference between for profit and nonprofit organizations. Also explain that a foundation’s money may come originally from a person, family or corporation. The money is used to create an endowment where the funds are kept permanently (in perpetuity) and invested to provide income for the continued support of the organization. Some of the income is given out as grants (donations which do not have to be repaid) to be used by other not for profit organizations or to people to help the common good. Foundations, and other “independents/nonprofits,” are part of the “business sector” of the economy and provide goods or services for consumers, just like “for profit” businesses, but their aim is to help others, not to make a profit.

  4. To help the learners better understand the work of foundations, divide the class into small teams of two or three. Distribute copies of Foundation Worksheet (Attachment Two) to the class. Using the Internet, have the class access Foundation Profiles on the Learning to Give Web site at http://learningtogive.org/resources/foundations/foundations.asp. Assign each team one of the foundations to research. Each team should add the information for their foundation to the chart. If time and facilities permit, students may visit their foundation’s Web site (if there is one) and list a specific project of interest on the chart. Bring the class together to share information and complete the charts.

  5. Explain that foundations are nonprofit organizations. That is, they must not make money to split among the owners or investors. All money must go back into the organization to continue its work. There are political and historic reasons why nonprofits exist in this country:

    • Communities existed in this country long before government was set up. As a result, citizens were forced to work together to find solutions for problems. Even when governments were set up, citizens did not like bureaucracies and sometimes set up volunteer groups to deal with the problems. Churches organized their members to provide charity and to work for the common good.
    • Sometimes when there is only a small group interested in a problem, the government will not address it because there are not enough people demanding action. Minority concerns can be handled by a nonprofit organization to provide the service which is not needed by the majority or to convince government that something should be done.
    • Nonprofit organizations can handle those things that people don’t want “big” government to become involved in. Sometimes people don’t want the government to be involved in all parts of community life. Ask students to provide examples in history of citizens or nonprofit organizations providing a service/help rather than expecting the government to provide it (churches, Red Cross, Salvation Army, anti-slavery groups, women’s suffrage organizations, Parent Teacher Associations, Catholic Social Services, YMCA, NAACP, ACLU, Amnesty International, Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, non-public colleges and universities, etc.).
  6. Using the Internet, type in www.guidestar.org or www.idealist.org. This will allow a search of foundations or other nonprofit organizations in your particular area. i.e. The Eli Lilly Foundation, The Guidant Foundation, The Lumina Foundation, The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust Foundation, The Dekko Foundation, etc. Develop a list of your area’s groups. Research those groups that interest the students. Let the class select a small number of groups to invite to speak to the class. NOTE: Either the teacher or the students may invite the representative of each group to visit the class for a “Meet Your Local Foundations Day.” Many communities now have a community foundation, which should be invited.

  7. Tell the learners that they will be reporting on these ordinary individuals who are “unsung” heroes from the community, just like a real reporter. The articles will be displayed in the library or in a hall display so that the information may be shared with the rest of the school. Go over the rules for journalistic writing which include answering the five Ws (who, what, where, when, why) and how. See “Foundations Day” Article Rubrics (Attachment Three). Let students practice writing about a local hero using someone they know from their families, or others. When the speakers come for “Foundations Day”, take their pictures to be placed with the articles in the display. Each student may select one speaker to write about. If the speakers bring any promotional materials, these can also be used in the display.


The article written about the visitor for “Foundations Day” may be used as an assessment for this lesson. Use “Foundations Day” Article Rubrics (Attachment Three).

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 05. Role of Foundations
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Define perpetuity and endowment related to the role of foundations.
  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 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark MS.12 Describe how the civil society sector functions in the "circular flow model" of the economy.
    3. Standard PCS 07. Skills of Civic Engagement
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Discuss a public policy issue affecting the common good and demonstrate respect and courtesy for differing opinions.