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Lesson: The Power of One

Quick Look: This lesson allows students to hear from some of the world's greatest (and sometimes quietest) leaders who have changed the world through their individual effort and vision, then asks students to consider their perceptions of what one person can really do. After discussion and reading about individuals with impact, students create a resume of a visionary.

Grades: 6-12

Time: One 50-minute class period

Materials: Internet connected computers.

Learning Goals

  • Students will understand how individuals can make a difference
  • Students will create a profile of people who make a difference


MCREL Science and Technology:

Activities: Students learn about historical and contemporary "heroes" who have made a difference. Students watch a collection of video clips on "The Power of One." Discussion. Students create a resume of a visionary.


People who want to improve the world are often quiet and unrecognized, but they have a critical sense of what's important, and a dedication that is unwavering. They often say, "If not me, then who?"


  1. Prompt students to recall historical figures who have become famous for making a difference in society. What does it mean to make a difference? Who else has made a difference by sheer power of will? Suggest Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Theresa. What about someone like Thomas Edison, Madame Curie, or the Wright Brothers? Were they people who helped people? Are there differences between people who solve technical problems and those who solve people problems? Discuss the criteria for someone who stands out for taking on an issue and works tirelessly to solve it.
  2. Have students select two of the biographies to read from the page "Meet The Heroes". Ask them to look for patterns in how these people approach life and work — what are the themes that can be found in these interviews?
  3. Discuss the difference between a "figurehead" and a person who leads for change (or other examples that students identify of individual heroes). Define criteria for a hero.
  4. Have students take the quiz "Are You The Next New Hero?" to imagine what their lives might be like in different careers. Discuss student interests and goals.
  5. Have students create a profile or resume of a person who leads for social change. The quote "Life is your work" should be explored. What is a change agent?

Key Concepts and Vocabulary:

  • Figurehead, leadership, vision.
  • Passion, inspiration, barrier-free mentality
  • Critical sense of what's important
  • Gut sense that something must be done: if not me, then who?
  • Social obligation, religious or spiritual obligation
  • Force of will
  • Recognition of problem through to solution
  • Leadership
  • Response to personal histories, not in all cases, but some
  • Psychological profile of someone entering a frontier. To what degree?
  • "Stick in the wheel" concept of Grameen Bank


Profiles of people who have made a difference through the power of one:

About the Classroom Content

These teacher resources were developed by the Learning Innovation and Technology Consortium (LITC). LITC develops educational programs and materials in support of problem solving, innovation, and social entrepreneurship.