Mensa For Kids
Mensa For Kids

Recognizing the need that exists for quality lesson plans, the Mensa Education & Research Foundation has developed a series of lesson plans to serve the diverse gifted children population.

High School

I Need a Hero

Download the complete lesson plan here.


This series of lessons was designed to fulfill the needs of gifted children for extension beyond the standard curriculum with the greatest ease of use for the educator. The lessons may be given to the students for individual self-guided work, or they may be taught in a classroom or homeschool setting. The lessons were developed by Lisa Van Gemert, M.Ed.T., Gifted Youth Specialist for the Mensa Foundation. If you have questions or comments regarding the lesson plan, please email


The idea of the hero is something that even very small children understand at some level. Many perennially favorite picture books feature heroic characters (such as Max in Where the Wild Things Are - a retelling of Homer's Odyssey). As children grow, their exposure to different manifestations of the hero broadens. They encounter heroes in television, movies, books, magazines and music, and on the pages of their local newspapers.

The heroic archetype features prominently in literary analysis at the high school level. A clear understanding of, and the ability to manipulate and apply, this idea is critical to any approach to world literature for the high school student. Unlike most of the Mensa Foundation's lesson plans, this one includes the reading of a long novel as its culminating assignment.

This lesson plan was designed to tie into the Mensa Hero Bracket Challenge that began in the October 2010 issue of the Mensa Bulletin, with the results announced in the March 2011 issue. It is not necessary to read the article, however, for students to benefit from the lesson plan.

If you are a member of Mensa, you (or your students) may read about the Mensa Hero Bracket Challenge in the October 2010 issue at

Guiding Questions:

  • What makes a hero?
  • Where do we find heroes?
  • How are heroes in books different from heroes in real life?
  • What is the journey of the hero and how does the archetype manifest itself?

  • Learning Objectives:

    After completing the lessons in this unit, students will be able to:

  • explain what makes a hero and the elements of the heroic journey.
  • recognize heroic figures in multiple media.
  • analyze a literary work for the heroic archetype.
  • analyze a piece of literature for elements of the hero and the heroic journey.
  • write an essay comparing and contrasting heroes in two works.

  • Preparation:

  • Ensure Internet access to look up relevant sites.
  • Get a copy of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
  • Print out copies of this plan as needed.

  • Download Lessons:


    If you would like to challenge yourself even more, read The Lord of the Rings trilogy and march Frodo through the heroic archetype. Who do you think fits the pattern better, Frodo or Luke?

    More reading
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
  • Star Wars: The Magic of Myth by Mary Henderson
  • The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell
  • Gods and Heroes in Art by Lucia Impelluso (you can see a sample at
  • More about mythology:

  • Watch it!
    The American Film Institute ranked the top 50 film heroes of all time on a list. Watch some of the movies and think about whether the heroes in them match what you know about heroes. Find the list at

    Download Assessment:

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