For Educators

Altruism: Meeting Society’s Needs – Background


Many people’s fundamental needs are not being met in the U.S. today. Food, shelter, medical care, and safety from violence elude increasing numbers of people. In a spirit of altruism, individuals, faith-based organizations and secular groups undertake humanitarian efforts to meet these people’s basic needs and — in the process — discover that other, deeper needs are being met for both the server and the served.

In this lesson, students explore the meaning of altruism and the bonds created when people take care of each other. Resources include segments from RELIGION & ETHICS NEWSWEEKLY, Web sites, and guest speakers. As a culminating activity, students explore and synthesize the lesson’s themes through a service learning project.

Grade Level:

Grades 5-6

Time Allotment:

This lesson [unit] can carry over anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on the level of interest and commitment to the topic.

Subject Matter:

Science; social studies; English/ language arts; religion

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Identify and categorize the basic needs that human beings have
  • Arrive at a definition of altruism
  • Research and report on altruistic organizations and individuals
  • Interview guest speakers about the way they serve those who are in need
  • Plan and carry out a community service project


This lesson was prepared by: Kathleen Cochran, Ed.M.