Exploring Gender Equality Through History

As Chris Morris and I continue to explore how oral history methods can be employed within the classroom, I felt it important to compose a non-traditional lesson plan that draws upon oral history resources. The result of my work is a WebQuest about gender equality, in which students lead themselves through an online journey to gain new knowledge and complete independent projects.

This non-traditional lesson plan meets the following standards from the Ohio Department of Education’s high school curriculum:

  • American History Content Statement #28: Following World War II, the United States experienced a struggle for racial and gender equality and the extension of civil rights.
  • Contemporary World Issues Content Statement #5: Individuals can identify, assess and evaluate world events, engage in deliberative civil debate and influence public processes to address global issues.
  • Contemporary World Issues Content Statement #8: Beliefs about civil and human rights vary among social and governmental systems.

I chose a WebQuest as the format for this lesson plan because it not only allows students to employ a high level of critical thinking as they complete the activities, but it encourages them to use relevant skills that could be useful in other life situations as well. Webquests were developed by Bernie Dodge and Tom March in 1995 as part of a teacher education program at San Diego State University. A WebQuest is a lesson plan in which students are given the opportunity to explore the Internet (through predetermined websites) to gain new knowledge about a topic. They are a wonderful way to change the normal routine of a classroom, as they require students to work primarily on a computer or tablet, and oftentimes work in groups to complete the tasks given. WebQuests also help students develop valuable life skills by giving them opportunities to not only collaborate, but use unfamiliar technology to solve complex problems. As students explore websites and online media such as interview clips and YouTube videos, they learn how the judge the validity of the material they encounter. These types of lessons can also be used in situations where students must stay at home for a snow day, or if the teacher will not be available for a class session, as they require little to no formal instruction or need for a teacher to deliver new information.

I chose Zunal as the template to develop this particular WebQuest, due to how user-friendly this website is. Many other websites will help teachers develop WebQuests and view other lesson plans for a small membership fee, but Zunal provides one WebQuest creation and unlimited views of others at no charge. Additionally, Zunal is a great model for developing a WebQuest, as each portion of the template is explained in detail and outlines what should be included for student success. Other websites, such as TeachersFirst and WebQuest.org provide teachers with step-by-step tutorials on how to create a WebQuest, along with valuable links and resources on what to incude within them.

My rationale for focusing the content of the WebQuest on gender equality is that it is a very current issue with which students can identify. Within the United States alone, women, on average, still make less money than men and experience great sexism in areas of education, career and even physical safety (click here for articles from CNN and the International Labour Organization about gender inequality).  Students not only see and experience the effects, but they can pursue lasting change within their communities and the world as they become more informed about global gender inequity.

Within the WebQuest, I chose to use an oral history clip from the Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection, in which Len Calabrese discusses the history of the Cleveland City Club. During his 2004 interview, Mr. Calabrese explains how the City Club in the 1960s and 1970s was very open-minded towards accepting groups of people that were oftentimes marginalized by the rest of society. However, he also admits that while the City Club accepted members from various ethnicities and religious backgrounds, it did not accept female members at that time, highlighting the gap in gender equality. I believe this is a great way to introduce students to the topic of gender equality and gives them an opportunity to listen to an individual reflecting upon the choices made by organizations and how those choices impact society on a larger scale.

This lesson requires students to do a great deal of writing and creative thinking, as they must compose the information they have reviewed into thoughtful paragraphs and plans for global change. They will not only be asked to identify the ways in which women are marginalized all over the world, but also the ways in which organizations are seeking to bring balance between the sexes. To summarize what they have learned, students will be asked to create a unique plan detailing specific steps towards gender equality throughout the world. They will be given the freedom to choose how they wish to develop this plan (poster, brochure, PowerPoint presentation, etc.), as long as it addresses how women would be made equal in the areas of education, career, politics and health/safety. Then students will be asked to present their plans to the class, to help foster a discussion of what methods would benefit the community and society as a whole as they seek equity among all people.

Click here to see the PDF of this lesson plan.

Check back soon for more lesson plans and valuable resources as we continue the summer blog series! As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions on this post or on Twitter!

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