We the Past

3, 4, 5

Students become familiar with philanthropy-related terms and increase their familiarity of past and present people and places within the United States and their local community. Students consider the impact of people who give to the community and realize that many places in the U.S. and in their communities are there as a result of philanthropy.

Lesson Rating 
PrintThree Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learners will:

  • construct a time line.
  • identify vocabulary related to philanthropy.
  • name the relationship between common resources and philanthropy.
  • formulate a list of philanthropic organizations.
  • Pictures of past and present people and places of the US
  • Pictures of people and places important to your community
  • Index cards
  • Copies for each student of Vocabulary Worksheet (Handout Two)
  • Copies for each student of Homework Assignment (Handout Four)
  • Phone book, used as a reference tool
  • Digital camera
  • Construction paper
  • Banner paper for group time line.
  • Cards with Philanthropy Symbols (Handout Three) glued on them; three cards per student
  • Resource Books: Regions of the USA and How to Be President of the USA (see Bibliographical References) or other resource which includes pictures and definitions of past and present American people/places
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework:Students will work with family members to list five philanthropic organizations in their community (Handout Four: Homework Assignment).



  1. Day One: Anticipatory Set:

    Place pictures of past and present people and places of the U.S. around the room. As students walk around the room looking at the pictures, they talk and gather ideas about what these people and places are about. Meet together and discuss what we know about these people and places and how they are connected. Discuss the contributions of the people and the origins of the places.

    Teacher Advance Preparation: Use the index cards to create picture and information cards for persons and places of the past and present U.S. (Make one labeled picture card and one information card for each person or place. Make enough for every student to get one card.) Use the examples in Handout One: America’s Past to help you get started. On banner paper, draw a time line containing dates from 1620 to the present. The students will fill in the information.

  2. Hand out to each student either a picture or information card about a person or place. Each student locates the person holding the matching card (match picture/name to information). Partners place the picture on the appropriate place on the time line and write a date associated with the picture. Discuss the events on the time line and look for relationships.

  3. Day Two:

  4. Tell the students that many places in the U.S. and your community are there because of the philanthropy of people and organizations. Libraries, universities, parks, museums, and so on are generously supported by volunteers and paid for by philanthropists. Introduce or review some terms related to philanthropy. Have the students complete Vocabulary Worksheet (Handout Two). Discuss correct answers and have students give concrete examples for the different terms. Teacher Answer Key: 1--C, 2--B, 3--E, 4--H, 5--A , 6--F, 7--D, 8--G

    • Display pictures and places of your community around the classroom. (Examples: local fireman, library, citizen of the year, mayor, etc.) Discuss the roles and contributions of these people and the origins of the significant places (i.e. donations). Discussion questions may include the following:
      • How does a place like this survive? Where does the money come from to keep it going? Why is it important to the community?
      • If there were no philanthropists, how would a place like this get funded?
      • What philanthropic acts are represented in these pictures?
      • Why do these people give, donate, volunteer and share?
  5. Day Three:

    Anticipatory Set:Ask the students to recall the three Ts of philanthropy. What does the philanthropist give or share for the common good? (time, talent and treasure) Help the students define time, talent and treasure in a broad sense. (Treasure can be money, a valued object or a piece of property. Talent may include knowledge gained and shared. Time may be in the form of volunteering or time put into a creation that is given away.)

  6. Pass out cards with the time, talent and treasure symbols (Handout Three: Philanthropic Symbols). Instruct students to match the symbols to community persons or places by placing a symbol by each community picture from Day Two. After all the cards are matched to pictures, discuss the choices made by the students. Discuss whether they labeled them with the correct symbols (not all people/places are connected to philanthropy).

    • Distribute a copy of Handout Four: Homework Assignment to each student. Go over instructions together to make sure the students understand the assignment that they will be taking home. Demonstrate how a telephone book may be used as a resource tool. Challenge the students to look in their own community for examples of philanthropy. Students will use the list in the next lesson.

Observe student interaction and accuracy of placement on the time line. Assess student comprehension of vocabulary on the Vocabulary Worksheet (Handout Two). When students return their Homework Assignment: Handout Four, check for understanding of the concept of philanthropic organizations

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define philanthropy as the giving and sharing of time, talent, or treasure intended for the common good.
      2. Benchmark E.2 Define philanthropy and charity.
      3. Benchmark E.4 Define and give examples of selfishness and selflessness.
  2. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark E.5 Identify one local citizen who has helped the community through giving and/or service.
    2. Standard PCS 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark E.1 Define and give examples of civil society sector corporations.
    3. Standard PCS 04. Philanthropy and Geography
      1. Benchmark E.1 Name examples of civil society organizations in the community.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe one reason why a person might give or volunteer.
      2. Benchmark E.4 Give an example of how citizens act for the common good.