Small Steps; Great Journeys

9, 10, 11, 12

Students learn the elements of the political process, such as advocating for candidates and current issues. The learners articulate how this action is a demonstration of responsible citizenship and how advocating for one's beliefs is a demonstration of a citizen's rights. Voting is a method to have a voice in the common good of their community and Nation.

PrintOne 50-60 minute class period

The learners will:

  • identify how "small steps" can lead to "giant steps for mankind."
  • articulate an understanding of "taking steps" to advocate for the improvement of society.
  • identify some motivating factors for individuals involving themselves in taking action.
  • articulate some issues/problems in their school/community.
  • identify advocacy plans to promote a candidate or issue.
  • recognize that individuals who advocate for a cause to enhance the common good is a philanthropist.

Background research on volunteering for an election


Write a poem about an issue you care about. Share it with others to advocate for taking action. 



  1. Anticipatory Set: Display these quotes on the board:

    "The longest journey starts with the first step." (Chinese proverb)

    "That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” (Neil Armstrong)

  2. Discuss with the class the meaning of these two quotes and have the learners share some examples where these ideas may have been true in their own lives or the lives of others (ie., what they think might have been some of the “first steps” for the Olympic participants, American Idol contestants).

    Have them also consider what at first might have been small steps by men and women of history but have resulted in major social and environmental improvements (i.e., Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandella, Jane Goodall).

  3. Encourage the learners to explore what motivates people to want to step out and take action for the common good of others?

  4. Share that many social psychologists agree that the primary motivation for people to act comes from "seeking pleasure, satisfaction or avoiding pain or dissatisfaction."

    Discuss whether this might have a connection to the motivation for an individual to act for the common good?

  5. Brainstorm with the students some of the issues that are present in the school, community, or nation that people are responding to. Have the learners identify some of the possible reasons this action might be satisfying to them.

  6. Share with the learners that local/national elections typically have people taking action to support candidates and issues that they agree with. Pose the questions, “What might motivate someone to want to promote one candidate/issue over the other? “ and “How might one go about advocating for the candidate or issue of his/her choice?”

    1. List their thoughts and ideas on the display board.
    2. Discuss “small steps” that could be taken to advocate for a particular candidate/issue that would be age-appropriate and doable.
  7. Conclude this lesson by discussing why someone who acts responsibly for the benefit of society and/or the global community could be considered a philanthropist: (giving time, talent, and or treasure for the sake of another or for the common good).


The learners will be assess based on their contribution to and involvement in group discussions.

Cross Curriculum 

Students take action to encourage adults to vote.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark HS.2 Discuss civic virtue and its role in democracy.
      2. Benchmark HS.3 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibilities.
      3. Benchmark HS.8 Explain how a robust civil-society sector supports civil society.