Academic Ice Bucket Lesson Plan

Arthur Ward (Lyman Briggs College, Michigan State) teaches a unit on charitable giving in his ethics course and has come up with a way of doing so that gets the students really interested and involved:

I had heard of others doing some group work in class with this topic, asking students to research effective charities. It occurred to me that this was a great idea, but it would be made much more powerful if the students had real money to spend. If they have real money, they are truly making life and death decisions when they select charities – just the sort of thing to deeply engage them with the topic. Like all decent people, I give to charity every year. Why not give them MY money to spend?

He generously has made available his multi-day lesson plan for this, complete with readings, assignments, and in-class activities. And then there’s the video: 



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Duncan Richter
9 years ago

Anyone interested in this sort of thing might also want to check out The High Impact Network (, which offers various ideas for activities relating to effective altruism. The Life You Can Save ( has information on “giving games,” which might allow you to do something like what Arthur Ward does without using your own money. (“I want to run a Giving Game– can The Life You Can Save sponsor it? The short answer is probably!”) Also worth looking into are GiveWell (, A Path That’s Clear (, and Giving What We Can (

Fiona Woollard
Reply to  Duncan Richter
9 years ago

I can endorse what Duncan Richter says from personal experience. I ran a Giving Game as part of a first year Ethics module (in the UK). I got some sponsorship from The Life You Can Save (after contacting A Path That’s Clear through the website Duncan mentions above), had some donations from colleagues, brought a box for the students to put donations in and pledged to match the student donations out of my own pocket. I also asked students to choose “Cake or Donate” i.e. to vote whether I should bring cake for everyone to the last lecture or donate the money to the fund. (Cake had somehow become a bit of riff in the lectures.) Students chose between a local, UK based charity and a global one, with the understanding that the latter would save more lives per donation, considering their decisions in light of Singer’s argument that distance should be irrelevant. It was on a much smaller scale than in Ward’s project – one class of three spent on Famine Relief in a general intro to ethics course, but I felt that it went really well.

9 years ago

This is a great service, and thanks to Arthur Ward and Daily Nous for sharing it. I have been wanting to do something similar, but had a hard time envisioning it, so this is very helpful. If anyone has a model for incorporating service learning (volunteer work) into their classes, I would appreciate that too.