Sample: Grades 9-12: Lesson 5: Love, Belonging & Connection

Student Reflection Check-in Prompt

  • I feel connected to my peers.
  • I have people in my life that I feel connected to.
  • I am part of a group.
  • I feel like people “see” me and my gifts.
  • I feel connected to my school community.
  • What is a goal you can set this week?
  • What is a strategy you can implement to help you accomplish your goal?

Learning Objectives

As we continue to explore Maslow’s Hierarchy, the next level is love, belonging, and connection. This lesson explores the various strategies that help us genuinely connect with others around us.

Materials Needed

  • 6 sticky-back chart papers; markers for 6 groups
  • Copies of Stallard’s Universal Human Needs
  • Magazines, scissors, glue if cutting images for posters

Lesson Content

Love, acceptance, and belonging are closely related to psychological safety. At this level of the hierarchy, the need for meaningful connection with others and genuine friendship drives our behavior.

It is important for people to feel loved and accepted. Personal relationships and connections with friends, family, and peers play an important role in our well-being, in addition to our involvement in other groups that might include religious groups, sports teams, clubs, and other group activities.

As members of classrooms and schools, we can either help connect people or further isolate them. We want to create a culture of connection in our classrooms and schools.

Research has found that social connection is a primal human need that appears to improve the performance of the body’s [vital organ systems] (Uchino et al. 1996). Viewed from the opposite side, research has shown that lacking sufficient connection is associated with a host of negative outcomes including poorer cognitive performance, decreased sleep quality, lower levels of self-rated physical health, more intense reactions to negatives and less uplift from positives, greater feelings of helplessness and threat, substance abuse, depressive symptoms, and suicidal ideation (Cacioppo and Patrick, 2008).

Lesson Plan

Activity 1: (20 minutes)
Start off the lesson by playing “Have You Ever?”

  • All of the questions start with “Have you ever…?”
  • The facilitator reads out the questions or statements one by one.
  • Stand up if the answer to the question for YOU is YES.

Have a class discussion about what they learned about people in the class. Emphasize that they may have been in school with these friends most of their lives and not really know them.

Activity 2: (25 minutes)
Show the video clip Line Game from Freedom Writers. Have a class discussion.

  • How did the line game change the students’ perceptions of each other?
  • How did the game open up a “space” for students to connect with each other in new and authentic ways?

Activity 3: (25 minutes)
Prior to watching the video, divide students up into groups of 4. Invite them to have a discussion about what makes people genuinely happy. Have them create a list of the top 5 ideas that bring both short-term and long-term happiness to people. Have each group write down their 5 ideas on chart paper and share them with the class.

Watch the Harvard Grant Study TED talk. After watching the video, invite the groups to revisit their lists as a group and discuss their new insights.

  • Is your list the same?
  • How did the Harvard Grant Study change your perceptions of happiness?
  • What does this have to do with love, belonging, and connection?

Activity 4: (30 minutes)
Divide the class up into 7 groups. Give each group 1 of the 7 universal human needs from Michael Stallard. Invite each group to read their quote and create a poster that represents their chosen characteristic. Divide the poster into thirds and illustrate each of the following:

  • What does their word mean?
  • What does it look like, sound like? Draw images, download images, or use images from magazines.
  • Think of an example of when someone demonstrated your word.
  • What are some specific things you can do to demonstrate your word to others? Come up with 5–8 strategies.

Connect the lesson back to Maslow’s Hierarchy and help them see the relationship between basic needs, physical and psychological safety, and the 7 universal human needs/connections.

Activity 5: (15 minutes)
Have a class discussion. Invite the students to think about moments when they felt loved or connected to someone. Write down their ideas on the board. Discuss common factors and how similar themes can be implemented in the students’ lives and in the classroom.

Activity 6: (45 minutes)
Have a piece of paper for each student in the room. Let the class walk around and write a compliment, meaningful connection, or something they like about that person. Afterward, initiate a class discussion where students can talk about how they felt more connected to their classmates. Discuss how love and connection can change mindsets and moods.

Activity 7: (30 minutes)
Have a class discussion.

  • How did COVID-19 and living through the pandemic change your definition of meaningful connection?
  • How did your expectations of relationships change?
  • What changed after the pandemic?
  • Did you value different kinds of connections more?

Have the students either discuss as a class or write down their thoughts. Invite the students to share their thoughts with a partner or in small groups.

Discussion Prompts

  • How would you describe your current school situation?
    Does it draw you in and connect you with your peers and various groups?
    Does it push you away and leave you feeling disconnected?
  • What is one thing you can do to connect with others?
  • What is one thing you wish others would do to connect with you?
  • Describe a time when you truly connected with another person or a group. How did that make you feel?
  • Describe a time when you felt used or like someone was only talking to you to get to something or someone else. How did that make you feel?


  • Call people by name, say hello, and smile.
  • Make eye contact when you talk to people.
  • Ask people their opinion.
  • Don’t interrupt others when they are talking.
  • When you make a mistake, say you are sorry.
  • Reflect on how your body language could be connecting to others.
  • Serve and help others.
  • Say thank you.

Application & Extension

  • Invite students to read the article by Michael Stallard written in the context of COVID-19 and virtual learning.
  • Have a group discussion about how COVID-19 and other events impact the connection culture at our school.
  • What populations are at the greatest risk of being lonely?
  • What can we do about it?

Curriculum Connections

  • English Language Arts
  • Health