Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Ben Franklin, The Good Citizen—Benjamin Franklin's Contributions to Philadelphia
Lesson 6
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


To show how active citizens can make a difference in a community.


2-3 class periods


The Learner will:
  • identify several of Benjamin Franklin's contributions to Philadelphia.
  • compare and contrast the effectiveness of teamwork (citizen involvement).


  • Social Studies text or reference materials highlighting Ben Franklin's contributions to Philadelphia and the bucket brigade
  • Literature on Benjamin Franklin
  • Ben Franklin's Philadelphia student sheet (see Attachment One).
  • Bucket Brigade game and student activity cards, Calling All Volunteers, Our City Needs Your Help! (see Attachment Two).
  • Web site http://www.ushistory.org/franklin/index.htm
  • Bucket Brigade activity cards
Handout 1
Ben Franklin’s Philadelphia
Handout 2
Calling All Volunteers, Our City Needs Your Help!The Bucket Brigade

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:
Read about Benjamin Franklin's contributions to Philadelphia

  • Discuss the qualities Franklin possessed making him a good citizen.

  • In small groups, have the students complete the Ben Franklin's Philadelphia Student Sheet (see Attachment One).

  • Have each group present their work to the total class and discuss.

  • After this discussion, focus on the aspect of volunteering in the community. In Philadelphia colonial times there was a great need for philanthropic behavior in the management of fires. (Even today, most men and women who fight fires are volunteers.) Students need to understand that these people are volunteering not only time and talent, but also risk their own lives to help others in the community.

  • Students reflect orally about the difficulties of living in a colonial town and the eminent danger of fire. Ask students how they could have contributed or volunteered in colonial times, with talent, time, or action.

  • Students participate in a bucket brigade game to discover that it takes more than a notion to be an active citizen. Compare how the two different methods of putting out a fire demonstrated philanthropy by making a comparison chart. Students should realize the first method was not very successful because not many people were philanthropic. The second bucket brigade style was successful because everyone worked for the common good.


  • Teacher observation of student participation.
  • Completion of at least five examples on the Ben Franklin Philadelphia Student Sheet (see Attachment One).
    • After Bucket Brigade activity, have students record their responses to the following questions:
    • What was the need?
    • Who had the need?
    • Who was in the community?
    • Who filled the need?
    • What talent or treasure was given or shared?
    • What goodness does the community experience from that giving or sharing?
    • What is the reward for the one who shared?
    • What would have happened if the need were not met?

Lesson Developed By:

Christel Homrich
Forest Hills Public Schools
Thornapple Elementary School
Grand Rapids, MI 49546


Handout 1Print Handout 1

Ben Franklin’s Philadelphia


Contribution made to Philadelphia by Ben Franklin Year What was the community need? How did this affect the future?

























Handout 2Print Handout 2

Calling All Volunteers, Our City Needs Your Help!The Bucket Brigade

Scenario 1: Use an empty bucket to represent a fire. Place this empty bucket twenty-five foot from a “well”, a full pail of water. Prepare a command card for each student in the class. See Bucket Brigade cards. Students are to only do what their card tells them to do. The object of the game is to have only a few students actually take water to the bucket! The rest of the students have other things that are more important to do than to volunteer to put out the fire. Begin activity. How long does it take to put out the fire? Discuss the problems that arise when only a few people pitch in to help the common good.

Make index cards for students to use in the first scenario.

Call out, “Fire, Fire, Fire!”
(Copy: 1 card)

Respond to person yelling, “Fire, Fire, Fire.” “I am too busy!” (Copy: 4-5 cards)

Yell out, “Hurry get a bucket and help me!” (Copy: 1 card)

Respond, “I’ll help!” (Copy: 4-5 cards)

Just stand and watch, pretend not to notice the commotion. (Copy: cards for remaining students)

Scenario 2: All students are going to volunteer their time and talent to help put out the fire. Students divide into two groups with the same set-up as before having a well on one end and a fire on the other for both groups. The structure on fire will burn down in three minutes. In order to fill the need of putting out the fire, students must fill the “fire pail” before the three minutes are up. Students are to solve the dilemma at hand. This activity will reinforce some cooperative behavior among students, and the idea that it takes more than a notion to be a volunteer. It takes action.

Philanthropy Framework:


Cinda, Teacher – Holland, MI9/19/2007 8:00:51 AM

We read the book What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin? by Jean Fritz (ISBN 0698203658) and discussed what contributions Ben Franklin made to his community. Acting out the Bucket Brigade helped students understand why active helping is important.

Laura, Teacher – Douglas, MI9/19/2007 8:14:25 AM

Great game. Simulations and active games to motivate students are great. We compared the game results to "what if" the same thing happened in NY on Sept. 11th. What if no one was philanthropic? What would have been different? How would the rest of the world view us?

Donna, Teacher – Muskegon, MI9/19/2007 11:53:49 AM

We learned a lot about Ben Franklin and all his philanthropic work.

Patsy, Teacher – Woodstock, GA1/24/2011 4:21:17 PM

I'm going to use that for my 4th Grade class!

Dominique, Educator – Vermont, VT3/4/2015 10:52:01 AM

This can be paired up wonderfully with The National Parks activity on Ben Franklin. The NPS one builds the vocabulary and provides great reading cards for the kids, while this lesson applies that knowledge to think deeper.
Love it! The NPS activity is at nps.gov. Search for Ben Franklin: What a Character!

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