My Part in the School Community

6, 7, 8

In this lesson, students analyze and define the concept of community. The middle-school students identify their responsibilities for the common good in their role as citizens in the school community. They list ways they can help the younger students enter their school community successfully.

PrintOne Fifty-Minute Class Period Plus Homework

The learners will:

  • define the word community.
  • identify the different communities of which he/she is a part.
  • define the Core Democratic Value of “Common Good.”
  • discuss the difficulties involved in coming to a new school.
  • generate a list of ways to help fifth graders transition to sixth grade.
  • define philanthropy.
  • interview his or her parents.
  • Digital camera or Polaroid camera
  • Poster board
  • Clothesline
  • Student copies of handouts: My Communities and Family Interview Sheet.
Home Connection 

Interactive Parent / Student Homework:Students use the “Family Interview Sheet” to help each student remember what his or her own transition to sixth grade was like. This information may help them be more sensitive when they are trying to help the new students.


  1. Anticipatory Set:In advance, create a slide show of pictures that represent several different types of community: common interests, common locations, common characteristics, common policy, common history, and common social, economic, political or professional interests. Before showing it to the class, explain to the students that they have to figure out what these pictures all have in common. After the students have guessed, explain to them that each one of these pictures in some way represents communities.

    Teacher Note: In my slideshow, I had pictures of the school, library, downtown, Chamber of Commerce, stores, major manufacturers, parks, lakes, different areas of town, streets, etc.

  2. Ask the students, “Can any one tell me what a community is?” Write the ideas that that they generate on the board or a newsprint chart.

  3. Copy the following quotes (on the overhead, blackboard or on paper) for the class to read and discuss. What do these quotes say about community?“America is woven of many strands. I would recognize them and let it so remain. Our fate is to become one, and yet many. This is not prophecy, but description.” Ellison, Ralph “ There is no one subsists by himself alone.” Felltham, Owen

  4. Introduce the definition of Community from the Learning to Give Web site: /resources/glossary-philanthropic-terms Compare the published definition to the ideas generated by the class. Ask the students if they are a part of any communities that fit this definition. Lead the students to recognize that they are part of a school community.

  5. Duplicate “My Communities” (Handout One) for each student. Each student fills in the many communities to which they belong. Each student’s paper will be different although they may get ideas from each other to include organizations such as Boys and Girls Club, Girl Scouts, sports teams and the town in which they live.

  6. Discuss the Core Democratic Value of Common Good. (Citizens should work for the greater benefit of all citizens.) Lead students to recognize that they are “citizens” in all the communities they wrote about on their papers. Ask them to identify things they do, or see others doing, that reflect the idea of common good in the different communities.

  7. Direct the discussion toward the school community. Ask the students a few questions to help generate a conversation about when they first came to this school: When you came to this school did you feel like you belonged? How did you feel? What was the scariest thing about coming to a new school? Why is change difficult? Can you think of a time when things changed? Is it important to feel like you belong? Why or why not? Do the incoming sixth graders need our help? How can we do that?

  8. Have the students each write a statement (doesn’t need to be shared) explaining why the new sixth graders need some help getting familiar with their middle school.

  9. When you have established that the fifth graders will need help getting ready for the middle school in the fall, ask the students what they can do (for the good of all) to make them feel welcome. Brainstorm with the students on the board or a sheet of newsprint. The students may choose to take on some of the proposed projects. For this unit, the class will take on two projects: writing letters and making a video.

  10. Define philanthropy as the giving of time, talent or treasure for the common good. Tell the students that when they share their project, they will be philanthropists.

  11. In order to make the letters and video valuable to the incoming students, the students generate a list of things that they think are unique to their school or are important to know about their school. First, have students work in pairs to generate the lists, then have them share their ideas with the whole class. Record their ideas on chart paper for future reference. More ideas can be added to the list as the unit progresses. Save this list for use in Lesson Three: Roll the Tape!


The assessment for this lesson will be done mostly through teacher’s observation of student participation, but also through the list the students generate while working with their partners.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify different types of communities with which an individual might identify.
  2. 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. Standard VS 02. Service and Learning
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Select a service project based on interests, abilities and research.
    3. Standard VS 04. Raising Private Resources
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Explain in a case statement why resources (volunteers and money) are needed.