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"Highlighting Happiness" Lesson

In this lesson students will learn about the concept of happiness in the countries of Mongolia, Paraguay, and Ethiopia.


In this lesson, students will view three videos which were filmed by Peace Corps Volunteers as part of the video series, Highlighting Happiness. Students will hear various perspectives about what brings people joy in three different parts of the world: Mongolia, Paraguay, and Ethiopia.

Image of video frame

Highlighting Happiness: Mongolia

This short video explores what happiness means to Mongolians of all ages and backgrounds. Individuals at the market, in their homes, outside school, and on the street were asked the question, "What is Happiness?"

Image of video frame

Highlighting Happiness: Paraguay

This video features the visuals and voices of Paraguayans sharing where they find joy in their country, the things they value, and the friendly tradition of tereré.

Image of video frame

Highlighting Happiness: Ethiopia

In this video, a Peace Corps Volunteer shares what they have learned from their host community about happiness in Ethiopia.


  • Students will compare the products, practices, and perspectives in the countries of Mongolia, Paraguay, and Ethiopia.
  • Students will make cultural comparisons between the perspectives on joy in three countries in different parts of the world.
  • Students will think critically about the various sources of happiness in their own lives, and what forms of happiness they value the most.
  • Students will be able to identify Mongolia, Paraguay, and Ethiopia on a map.



1. Defining happiness:

Distribute the student handout Highlighting Happiness [PDF] and have students complete the Preview section:

  • Ask students to reflect on the question: What does "happiness" mean to you?
  • After completing question #1, ask students to share with a partner or with the class.

2. Make a word cloud:

Words related to happiness

Ask students to brainstorm 5 things, both big and small, that bring them joy.

After completing question #2, students will create a word cloud, either virtually using an online app, or in the classroom using the whiteboard.

  • Pass out whiteboard markers to multiple students and have them come up and write one thing that makes them happy anywhere on the board.
  • When they finish, they should pass their marker to another student who hasn't gone yet, until every student has written one thing that makes them happy.
  • Answers can be written all over the board in no particular order, like a word cloud.

3. Make predictions:

  • Ask students to make predictions about whether or not people in other cultures find joy in the same things as they do.
  • After completing question #3, ask students to share with a partner or with the class.

4. Locate on the map:

  • Introduce the videos and ask students if they know where the countries of Mongolia, Paraguay and Ethiopia are located.
  • Show the three countries on a world map and point out that each is located in a different content.

5. Watch videos:

In the Discover section of their handout, students will be asked to take notes on the climate, food and drink, style of dress, cultural values, and examples of happiness that they see depicted in each video. In order to make this section more engaging, break students into groups to either:

a. Make a jigsaw:

Image of a jigsaw puzzle with four people.
  • Students will work in groups of 3, and each student will be responsible for taking notes on a different element of the video:
    • Student 1: Climate
    • Student 2: Food & Drink
    • Student 3: Style of dress
  • After watching the video the first time, students will share their notes with the rest of their groupmates.
  • Then, watch the video a second time and all members of the group will take notes on:
    • Cultural values
    • Activities that bring happiness
  • After watching the second time, students will once again share their notes with the rest of their groupmates.


b. Complete stations:

Image of a classroom with 7 stations
  • Place 6 laptop computers, iPads, etc. in different parts of the room.
    • Computer 1: Mongolia video
    • Computer 2: Paraguay video
    • Computer 3: Ethiopia video
    • Computer 4: Mongolia video
    • Computer 5: Paraguay video
    • Computer 6: Ethiopia video
  • Break the class into 6 groups and have each group rotate through stations 1-3 or stations 4-6, so that they can watch each of the three videos.
  • Students can watch each video as many times as they need to in their group, until they have their chart completed.
  • Come back together as a whole class for discussion.

6. Post-viewing: Reflection

Have students reflect on the similarities and differences between the cultural values and examples of happiness in Mongolia, Paraguay, and Ethiopia, as well as how those examples relate to their own ideas of happiness.

  • Have students complete the Reflect section of their handout.
  • When complete, ask students to share their ideas with a partner, then with the entire class.


1. For high school students:

  • Have students complete the follow-up activity, Key Elements of Happiness [PDF].
    • In this activity students will be asked to think more deeply about several key elements of happiness, and why perceptions of happiness may vary from one cultural context to another.
    • Students will also be asked to reflect on how their own community and environment influences the elements of happiness that matter most to them.
  • Have students visit the World Happiness Report website.
    • Using the dashboard feature, students can compare happiness scores in Mongolia, Paraguay, and Ethiopia.
    • Students can also compare happiness scores in any other country, with the happiness score of the US.
    • Ask students to think critically about why happiness scores may be lower or higher.
    • Ask students if there are any happiness scores which surprise them.

2. Spanish-language classrooms:

  • Instead of watching the videos about Mongolia and Ethiopia, watch these three videos about happiness in Latin America:
  • Translate the Highlighting Happiness handout into Spanish, and have the students complete the chart in Spanish:
    • El clima
    • Las comidas y bebidas
    • La ropa
    • Valores culturales
    • Ejemplos de felicidad


National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS)

  • Theme 1- Culture: Through the study of culture and cultural diversity, learners understand how human beings create, learn, share, and adapt to culture, and appreciate the role of culture in shaping their lives and society, as well the lives and societies of others. In schools, this theme typically appears in units and courses dealing with geography, history, sociology, and anthropology, as well as multicultural topics across the curriculum.
  • Theme 4- Individual Development and Identity: Personal identity is shaped by family, peers, culture, and institutional influences. Through this theme, students examine the factors that influence an individual’s personal identity, development, and actions. This theme typically appears in courses and units dealing with psychology, anthropology, and sociology.
  • Theme 9- Global Connections: The realities of global interdependence require an understanding of the increasingly important and diverse global connections among world societies. This theme prepares students to study issues arising from globalization. It typically appears in units or courses dealing with geography, culture, economics, history, political science, government, and technology.

National Literacy Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1: Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2: Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.