Relate, Create and Donate

Relate, Create and Donate is more of a teaching or lesson planning philosophy, or concept, than it is a theory.  Ben Shneiderman, a professor at the University of Maryland, introduced the concept a decade ago.  This framework for lesson planning, teaching, and maybe even life, has three parts:  Relate, Create and Donate.

(Photo by Andrew Pescod; Photoshopped by Jen)
Let's breakdown each one.

Relate:   Ask yourself, how do students relate to the topic being studied?  How do they relate to the lesson?  Do your students see relevance in what is being learned?  How could technology like news articles, video clips and audio files bring the information to life?

The National Science Education Report (1996) nicely summed up this concept:

"Learning is something students do, not something that is done to them...."

Create:  Once students have related to the lesson and/or topic, now what can they do with the information or new skill?  Can they craft a story out of their weekly spelling words?  Can they apply math formulas to do-it-yourself home projects?  Can they explain why gluten molecules take so long to digest?

This ancient proverb sums up Create well:

"I hear and I forget.  I see and I remember.  I do and I understand."

Donate:  Students are accustomed to the audience of oneYou know, the audience of the teacher.  Why not take advantage of a larger audience base to make learning more meaningful and useful outside of the classroom?  Could students share their creations with another class?  The entire school?  The PTA?  At a conference?  On the internet?

Albert Einstein had a lovely way to discuss donation:

"It is every man's obligation to put back into the world
at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it."

Challenge yourself in your lesson planning to include the relate, create and donate framework. 

I just thought of something....this blog is my personal relate, create and donate example.



  1. I love the idea of this! This would be a great teaching tool to implement during math class. So many times students wonder why they need to learn a particular skill set. To take it a step further a teacher could use relate, create, donate in conjunction to problem based learning.
    Lucy A

  2. This is a great idea. I know my 6th grade would love to 'donate' their writing expertise to a lower grade class. I may suggest this to a 1st or 3rd grade teacher who is always looking for new ways to engage their students.

    Elise T

  3. I do believe relating information to the students is very important. No one wants to learn information that they believe will not be useful. Also allowing them to actually apply the new information and create something allow them to use their senses. I will definitely try to incorporate this in my classroom one day. Ana V.

  4. I like this concept and it will be added to my toolbox.

    I think relate is the most difficult part since students will relate to material at different levels. During the relate part of teaching, a teacher has to take into account the students schema on the topic being taught. However, once the students can relate to the topic, they will most likely enjoy the create and donate part.

    Patricia L.