BC Social Studies Lesson Plans

Poverty and Inequality

Grade 6


Poverty Inequality

Big Idea

Economic self-interest can be a significant cause of conflict among peoples and governments.

Essential Question

What are the causes of poverty and inequality?

Learning Standards Content

Students are expected to know the following:

  • global poverty and inequality issues, including class structure and gender

Curricular Competencies

Students are expected to be able to do the following

  • Differentiate between short- and long-term causes, and intended and unintended consequences, of events, decisions, or developments (cause and consequence)

Core Competencies

I can share my ideas about how to reduce poverty.

I can check information, assess my thinking, and develop reasoned conclusions about the causes and consequences of poverty.

I can describe how aspects of my life experiences, family history, background, and where I live (or have lived) have influenced my understanding of poverty.

First People's Principles of Learning

Learning ultimately supports the well-being of the self, the family, the community, the land, the spirits, and the ancestors.
  • Ask students to name things they need in order to survive (food, water, shelter, health care…). List these in one column. Have students name things that they want. List these in a second column. Discuss the difference between needs and wants.
  • Listen to a read-aloud of Those Shoes by Marybeth Boelts.
  • Return to the class-generated list of needs and wants. In a different color, list Jeremy’s needs and wants as described in the story.
  • Have students respond to the following prompt in their journals: “For a child in grade 6, living in poverty means not being able to...”


  • Why are some people poor?
  • How would you know if there is poverty in our country? Our community?
  • What are some ways to prevent or reduce poverty?
  • Part 1: What is Poverty?

  • Explain that poverty can mean different things. Absolute Poverty is when household income is below a certain level, which makes it impossible for the person or family to meet basic needs of life including food, housing, safe drinking water, healthcare, etc. Relative Poverty is when a person or family cannot enjoy the same standard of life as everyone else in the country including internet access, clean clothes, a safe home, or even education.
  • Provide each student with a copy of the Needs and Wants sheet. Ask students to work with their parent or guardian to provide cost estimates.
  • Afterwards, have students respond to the following question in their journal: “If you had only enough to meet your needs, how would you balance this with your wants?”

    Part 2: Is there Poverty in BC?

  • Assess students’ prior knowledge of poverty in our province by having them determine if each statement on the sheet Poverty and Inequality in BC is true or false.
  • Address misconceptions using the facts from Answer Key: Poverty and Inequality in BC.
  • Explain that Canada’s poverty line is based on the Market Basket Measure. This is the cost of food, clothing, housing, transportation, and other items for individuals and families representing a modest, basic standard of living.
  • Have students take home the Monthly Budget sheet to complete with a parent or guardian.
  • Have students respond to the following prompt in their journals: If your family had to live on less than $95 a day, what would become most important? What would you have to give up?

    Part 3: What are the Causes and Consequences of Poverty?

  • Using a Think-Pair-Share strategy, ask
  • Why are some people poor?
  • If you didn’t have enough money, what problems would you face?
  • Read aloud the comic “On a Plate: a short story about privilege”.
  • Have students work in pairs to complete the chart and questions on the sheet Causes and Consequences of Poverty.
  • Debrief the activity using Answer Key: Causes and Consequences of Poverty.
  • Part 4: How Can We Reduce Poverty?

  • Show the video Thinking Upstream (1:14) by the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition.
  • Draw the river and bridge on the whiteboard, and use the following questions to support students in filling in the picture:
    • What does poverty look like in your family, neighbourhood or community? Fill in the river with the student suggestions. Note that many of their ideas may be stereotypes of poverty or the most visible manifestations of poverty e.g. homeless people, drug addicts, etc. Use the Answer Key: Poverty and Inequality in BC to add the bigger context to their comments e.g. “actually most poor people are working but unable to make ends meet.”
    • What kinds of responses to poverty are crisis responses like rescuing people from the river? Fill in the river banks with the student suggestions. If none, guide them to think about soup kitchens, food banks, shelters, etc.
    • What could we do in relation to poverty to re-build the bridge so that people aren’t falling into poverty? What are some solutions that could prevent poverty in the first place? Fill in the bridge with the student suggestions. If none, guide them to think about income assistance and minimum wage increases, social housing, free education, dental care, etc.
  • Explain that by downstream, we mean giving help to those who are in need. We might donate to a food bank or support a charity to try to reduce the consequences of poverty such as hunger and homelessness.
  • Explain that by upstream, we mean preventing poverty by dealing with its causes. For example, governments can introduce policies to keep people out of poverty. In 2019, the Government of Canada created the Poverty Reduction Act. This Act has the goal of reducing poverty in Canada by 50% by 2030.
  • Have students explore Statistic Canada’s Dimensions of Poverty Hub to see how Canada is doing with its goals to reduce poverty in Canada.
  • Ask: What is Canada doing to reduce poverty? What areas are improving? What do we still need to work on?
  • Have students respond to the following questions in their journals:

    How has your understanding of the causes of poverty changed? How are the consequences of poverty related to the causes?  What are some ways to reduce poverty?

  • Read the novel No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen about a 13 year-old boy whose mother loses her job causing them to becomes homeless.

B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition. [n.d.] “Digital Justice for BC.”



Borgen Project. 2016. “What Are the Causes of Poverty?”



Borovoy, Amy Erin. 2013. “5-Minute Film Festival: Teaching Kids about Global Poverty.” December 6. George Lucas Educational Foundation.



Canada Without Poverty. 2020. “Just the Facts.”



Canadian Teachers’ Federation. 2014. “Poverty, What is it? A Discussion Booklet for Students in Grades 5 to 8.” Ottawa, On. https://www.imagine-action.ca/Documents/KTP/Poverty-Discussion-Booklet.pdf  


First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition. 2020. “BC Child Poverty Maps.” Vancouver, B,C.   https://still1in5.ca/poverty-maps/  


Keep the Promise Canada. 2014. “What Child Poverty Means to Kids”. [Ottawa, ON.] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSja87uClLc  


Khan Academy. [n.d.]. “Global inequality.”   



Morris, Toby. 2015. “The Pencilsword: On A Plate.” Radio New Zealand.



Numbeo. 2020. “Cost of Living.”



Serajuddin, Umar and Nobuo Yoshida. 2016. “The World is Aiming to Halve Extreme Poverty by 2030 – but What Does that Actually Mean?” World Economic Forum.



Shiman, David. 1999. “A Human Rights Perspective.” Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Human Rights Resource Center



Statistics Canada. 2020. “Dimensions of Poverty Hub.”



Szopinski, Alison. 2014. “Featured Activity: World Population and Wealth Distribution Explained with Cookies.”  National Geographic.


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Last Reviewed

February 01, 2023

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