BC Social Studies Lesson Plans

Poverty, Privilege, and Power

Soc.Just. 12


Poverty, Privilege, and Power

Big Idea

Social justice issues are interconnected.

Essential Question

How is poverty linked to privilege and power imbalances in society?

Learning Standards Content

Students are expected to know the following:

  • social injustices in Canada and the world affecting individuals, groups, and society

Curricular Competencies

Students are expected to be able to do the following:

  • Determine and assess the long- and short-term causes and consequences, and the intended and unintended consequences, of an event, legislative and judicial decision, development, policy, or movement (cause and consequence)

Core Competencies

I am able to define poverty and describe how it impacts individual lives.

I can analyze consequences of injustices and power imbalances which lead to poverty in our society.

I can elaborate on my potential to bring about awareness of poverty and initiate change to current systems that promote inequality.

First People's Principles of Learning

Learning involves generational roles and responsibilities.
  • Distribute the “Being Poor Is” handout. Have students discuss statements in groups, and then add 5 statements to the list. Have groups share their statements with the class.
  • Ask the students to answer the following question with a Yes or No response: “It is my responsibility to address poverty, whether I have experienced it or not”. You could use www.menti.com or www.padlet.com to receive anonymous responses. Alternatively, students can write YES or NO on a piece of paper and hold it up. Reveal the number of Yes and No responses.
  • Engage students in a discussion of why they feel poverty is or it is not their responsibility. This could be a debate or a fishbowl activity.

Ask the class the following questions to gage their current understanding of the realities of poverty:

  • How do you define poverty?
  • What do we know about the causes of poverty?
  • What are the best ways to reduce poverty?

Part 1: Poverty

  • Explain that the causes and consequences of poverty are complex and inter-related.
  • Show the “Poverty Presentation” by Adrienne Montani. These PowerPoint slides outline the causes and consequences of poverty, and highlight the activism undertaken to address this issue in B.C.
  • Using a Think-Pair-Share strategy, ask students which facts from the slides stood out the most for them.
  • Draw attention to the campaign by First Call to repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code in terms of its relation to Child Labour Standards (to end physical punishment). Ask: “How is Section 43 especially problematic for a child in poverty?” (For example, a child who needs to work to support the family might be afraid to report an abusive situation at work.)
  • Exit Ticket What is the most surprising thing you learned about poverty?

Part 2: Measuring Poverty

  • Explain that poverty can be measured in different ways. 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.
  • 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.
  • Handout the “Market Basket Measure” sheet and have student calculate a monthly budget. Encourage them to consider what they would have to give up if they lived at this definition of the poverty line.
  • Provide students with access to the article 3.2 Million Canadians Living in Poverty.


Part 3: Privilege and Power

  • Explain that power and privilege are often unearned, and while we are in a society that tells us the value of hard work will pay off, there are systemic issues that need to be accounted for.
  • Have students participate in the Privilege for Sale activity:
    • Divide students into small groups of 3-4 and provide groups with the “List of Privileges for Sale”.
    • Explain that for the purposes of this activity we all exist in a world without these privileges. Groups will have an opportunity to buy specific privileges at a price of $100 each. Each group will receive money to buy the privileges, and each group must decide which privileges to buy.
    • Provide each group with a random dollar amount ranging from $100-$900. Allow groups time to come to consensus about which privileges they would like to buy. They can mark on their sheet which ones they
  • Debrief the activity by asking:
    • What was this activity like/what did it make you feel?
    • Was it difficult to pick out which privileges to buy?
    • Was this activity different for groups than had more money compared to those who had less?
    • Which privileges surprised you or caught you off guard on this list? Why?
    • Are there any items that you would like to discuss more or that you found particularly interesting?
  • Point out that in Canada people who live in poverty are more likely to be Aboriginal people, queer and trans people, persons with disabilities, recent immigrants and refugees, single mothers and single senior women.
  • Exit Ticket: What is the relationship between privilege and poverty? How can we address the needs of those most likely to be living in poverty?

Part 4: Poverty Reduction

  • Show the video Thinking Upstream (1:14) by the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition.
  • 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?
  • Students can write letters to their MP or MLA about changes in policy that they would like to see to address homelessness, childcare, poverty, and equity issues in their community.
  • Students can join existing campaigns to reduce poverty and inequality.

“B.C. Child Poverty Report Card.” 2020. First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition. www.Still1in5.ca 

“Digital Justice Policy Proposal for BC.” 2020.


B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition. [n.d.] “For Schools: Get Involved.”


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. [n.d]. www.Firstcallbc.org 

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


First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition. 2020 “Fostering Change: Youth Will Change the System.” www.Fosteringchange.ca 

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.”


“Living Wage for Families Campaign.” [n.d.] www.Livingwageforfamilies.ca 


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



Numbeo. 2020. “Cost of Living.” http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/  


“Privilege for Sale.” [n.d.] The Safe Zone Project.



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.”


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Last Reviewed

March 01, 2023

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