Share Your Personal Passion

3, 4, 5

In response to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s challenge to be the best with the talents you have, students explore talents and interests of their own and others. They practice listening and responding with respect. They raise awareness through volunteering of the benefit to communities of a variety of contributions. Everyone has something to give, and this lesson helps us respect and celebrate the contributions we all can make. Students internalize "I matter in my communities." 

PrintOne class period, plus time for a project

The learners will be able to ...

  • respond to text and identify words of encouragement from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 
  • explore personal interests and talents.
  • identify intergenerational partners in the community for a long-term relationship.
  • share personal talent and interests with another person in a community event. 
  • read-aloud copy of handout of Dr. King's address below
  • strips of paper for making a paper chain
  • materials for creating art or writing
  • chart paper and markers -- supplies for small groups
  • read-aloud copy of Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy (optional)


Teacher Preparation 

Contact a local organization, such as a retirement home or preschool, where students can interact and build relationships with someone from a different generation.

  • How does another person react to me when I share my interests and stories?
  • How do I feel when I listen to someone else's story?
  • How is a community better when people from different backgrounds meet and talk?


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Tell the students that there is a little-known speech that Martin Luther King, Jr. gave directly to young people. You may give the students copies of the speech (handout below). Play the full YouTube video of Dr. King, this short clip, or read aloud excerpts from the address of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the students of Barratt Jr. High in 1967. 

    Watch it three times and focus on a different thing each time, with time to discuss between watchings—words that you don’t understand; key words and ideas; advice that Dr.King gives the young people.

    Write keywords and quotes on the board and discuss meanings. 


  2. Optional: Read Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy. Discuss how Mira used her talent to make her community better. Discuss how she felt about it and how it affected others. Were they all the same, or was her community made up of different ages, abilities, colors, and genders?

    Ask the students what talents, traits, and behaviors they have that make their communities better. This may include things like kindness, good listening, artistic ability, and cooking talent. Tell the students to listen with respect and kindly contribute some of the talents they see in others. 

  3. Make a talents and strengths chain. Define community as a group that comes together because of shared interest or because they live, work, or learn in the same place. Communities are made up of diverse individuals who each bring their strengths to the common space and make it better for all. 

    Give each student three strips of paper (elements of a paper chain). On each strip, the student writes one strength or talent. This is something they are good at or they bring to the community. 

    Make a paper chain of the many talents and strengths to hang across the classroom. As students add their strips to the chain they read them aloud. Students listen with respect and respond with encouragement.

    Discuss how this chain represents the many different attributes of our members that together make our community better. 

  4. Optional Activity to explore interests: Put a chart paper on the table for 3-5 students to work together. Give them markers and instructions to complete the Map Your Heartbreak activity []. This activity helps them identify their passions and what they can do to make a difference to make the world better. 

    Bring the whole group together and discuss what areas of needs came up in the different groups. Then ask the students to share some of the ideas they had as ways to take baby steps toward problem-solving. What need can they address with their time, talent, and/or treasure?

  5. Tell the students about the connection you have made with a local retirement home or preschool. Tell them that they are going to use their identified talents to form a community of people of different ages and different backgrounds. If possbible, arrange to have a director from the other organization visit the classroom to share what the relationship will mean to them. 

    Discuss the value of forming peaceful and inclusive societies. If age-appropriate, introduce the Sustainable Development Goals established by the UN to address major problems in the the global community. What can we do locally, and how does that impact peace and inclusion in the whole world? This is goal #16.

  6. Service-Learning project:

    Students make art, stories, or share other talents with their new friends. If they can meet several times over the semester to build an ongoing relationship, the project will be stronger. Look for ways to contribute talents back and forth, including drawings, storytelling, and words of encouragement. 


Students reflect on the relationship with people of a different age group. Are all communities made up of people who have differences? We have a choice in how we treat people who are different than us. What choices are there about our words and attitudes toward something that is different? Can our words make a peaceful and inclusive community wherever we have communities?

Discuss what different abilities and perspectives bring to a meeting. 

Philanthropy Framework

  1. 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. Benchmark E.4 Describe the characteristics of someone who helps others.
    2. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.1 Give examples of philanthropic traditions of diverse cultures.
      2. Benchmark E.2 Discuss the importance of respect for others.
      3. Benchmark E.4 Demonstrate listening skills.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.5 Give examples of actions students can take to improve the common good and list or describe responsibilities that go with those actions.
      2. Benchmark E.9 Give examples how people give time, talent or treasure in different cultures.
  3. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark E.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities, and research.