Unit 1
Introduction to Billions in Change

The first unit of study introduces students to the Billions in Change movement. Students will watch the Billions in Change documentary and then discuss their initial thoughts about the work and ideas featured in the film. Even if students have seen the Billions in Change film in a previous class or on their own, it is worth having them watch it again to refresh their memories. The activities in this unit are intended to familiarize students with the ideas and inventions behind Billions in Change, while subsequent units will involve more in-depth studies of each topic. Students should be encouraged to form their own opinions and to respect those of others, even if they may disagree.

Grade LevelSubjectsSkills
6-12Social Studies
General science
Language Arts
Note taking

Essential Questions

  • What is Billions in Change?
  • Who is Manoj Bhargava and why is he noteworthy?
  • How is Mr. Bhargava’s using his wealth, and why is that unique?
  • What are the fundamental problems Mr. Bhargava aims to address, and how is he addressing them?
  • How does having more wealth or power equate to additional responsibility

Learning Objectives
Students will be able to:

  • Learn about some of the world’s most pressing problems and some practical inventions created to solve them
  • Formulate and express personal views about the responsibility that comes with wealth

Common Core State Standards Addressed

  • Reading Standards for Informational Text: Grades 6-12
    • Key Ideas and Details
      • Citing textual evidence
      • Determining a central idea
      • Analyzing in detail
    • Craft and Structure
      • Determine an author’s point of view
    • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
      • Integrate information presented in different media formats
      • Trace and evaluate arguments and specific claims
  • Writing Standards: Grades 6-12
    • Text Types and Purposes
      • Writing arguments with to support claims with specific evidence
      • Write informative/explanatory texts
    • Production and Distribution of Writing
      • Produce clear and coherent writing
      • Use technology, including the internet, to produce and publish writing
  • Speaking and Listening Standards: Grades 6-12
    • Comprehension and Collaboration
      • Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions
      • Interpret information presented in diverse formats
    • Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas
      • Present claims and findings
  • Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science and Technical Subjects: Grades 6-12
    • Key Ideas and Details
      • Cite specific textual evidence
      • Determine central ideas
      • Identify Key Steps
    • Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
      • Integrate visual information with other information
      • Distinguish between fact, opinion and reasoned judgment

Supplemental Resources
Billions in Change website: www.billionsinchange.com


Students will brainstorm a list of problems that they perceive as affecting human and the planet in today’s world.

Time: 40 minutes
Materials: Butcher paper; sticky notes (3-in x 3-in)

  1. As a class, use a large sheet of butcher paper and 3×3-inch sticky notes to make an exhaustive list of the major problems the students perceive in the world today. Examples may include poverty, climate change, water shortages, disease, crime, illiteracy, and so on. Both specific and general problems may be included.
  2. Write each problem in large letters on a sticky note and place it on the butcher paper. Each sticky note should contain one problem.
  3. Invite students to identify themes among the problems. Ask students to look at the board of problems, think about which share something in common, and suggest ways to group the problems into categories (e.g., local environmental problems; health-related problems; domestic problems; international problems; etc.). Some problems will bridge multiple categories, so it may be necessary to make categories more specific in that case.
  4. Group the sticky notes into the themes decided on by the class. Use a separate color sticky note and write the name of the theme defining each group of problems. (Alternatively, you may choose a different color sticky note for each theme, and then rewrite the problems on sticky notes corresponding to the color of the theme.)
  5. Save this list for future activities. Taking a photo of the list is a convenient way to preserve the information. (Alternatively, this activity could be done in groups, with each group having a sheet of butcher paper and a pad of sticky notes. Then each group could present its list to the rest of the class. If students have smartphones, they can snap a photo of their lists for easy reference.)

Students will view the Billions in Change documentary as a class and take notes about relevant facts from the film.

Time: 55 minutes
Materials: Computer; large screen; Internet access

  1. Provide students with some background information about the film using the “About Billions in Change” summary (Resource 1.1 in Appendix 1).
  2. Prior to starting the film, hand out the worksheet entitled “Billions in Change Film Facts” (Resource 1.2 in Appendix 1). Have students read through the questions and take notes on the answers as they watch the film.
  3. View the full-length Billions in Change documentary (43 minutes) as a class. The film can be streamed or downloaded free of charge from www.billionsinchange.com/film.
  4. Based on their notes while watching the film, ask students to answer each question on the “Billions in Change Film Facts” worksheet as completely as possible. If necessary, they can find more information on the Billions in Change website (www.billionsinchange.com). Students may work independently or in pairs.
  5. Have students turn in their written or typed answers on a separate sheet of paper.

Students will discuss their thoughts about and reactions to the Billions in Change documentary.

Time: 30 minutes
Materials: None required

  1. Ask students to discuss, as a class or in groups, the following questions and take notes of student responses:
    1. What impressed you most about the film?
    2. Which parts of the film really caused you to think?
    3. What feelings did you have while watching the film?
    4. Which invention did you like the most? Why?
    5. Which invention do you think will have the biggest positive effect on the world? Why?
    6. Did you find anything confusing? If so, what?
    7. Why do you think the film is called Billions in Change
    8. What questions would you ask Mr. Bhargava if he were here?
  2. Aggregate students’s questions and send to [email protected]. Provide the name of the teacher, the size and grade level of the classroom, and the name and location of the school. The Billions in Change team is happy to reply to questions from teachers and students.

Students will write freely about their own beliefs regarding the level to which people are responsible for one another.

Time: 45 minutes
Materials: None

  1. Give students a short writing assignment based on the following prompt: Mr. Bhargava tells an old story from Indian scriptures about someone watching a blind man walking toward a well (which in this case is a large and deep hole in the ground). If the blind man falls into the well, who gets the blame? The blind man? Or the guy who’s watching? Take a position and support your argument in 1-2 paragraphs.
  2. Ask students to exchange their papers with another student and have peer readers provide feedback on clarity, grammar, strength of position, etc.
  3. Have students revise their papers based on the peer review, and then turn in a typed copy.