The Gasquet to Orleans Road Controversy

Black and white photo of activist and several others protesting.

Activist Julian Lange at a NO-GO Road Protest

Overview and Context

In this lesson, high school students will use a case study methodology to analyze the beginning and eventual halt to construction of the proposed road from Gasquet to Orleans in California. They will look at the question of Native Sovereignty in relation and opposition to Federal land use rights.

This original lesson took place in Humboldt County, Northern California, but can be adapted for a different local historical event because it allows students to closely examine historical documents and craft perspective-based papers that analyze multiple sides of an issue. For your own class, you could look at other examples of the exercise of Native Tribal rights on land or religious practices: See document for potential cases.

California Standards Addressed

CA History/Social Science Standards:  12.7 Students analyze and compare the powers and procedures of the national, state, tribal, and local governments.

C3 Framework

  1. D2.Civ.1.9-12. Distinguish the powers and responsibilities of local, state, tribal, national, and international civic and political institutions.
  2. D2.Civ.4.9-12. Explain how the U.S. Constitution establishes a system of government that has powers, responsibilities, and limits that have changed over time and that are still contested.
  3. D2.Civ.5.9-12. Evaluate citizens’ and institutions’ effectiveness in addressing social and political problems at the local, state, tribal, national, and/or international level.
  4. D2.Civ.9.9-12. Use appropriate deliberative processes in multiple settings.


A Student Activity Matrix is provided in the related materials; this will serve as a portion of the assessment. A student reflection on the court case and arguments used will also be completed.

Resources and Materials

Step-by-Step Instructional Plan

1. Introduction to Concepts and Focus Question

Have students choose a question for their table to discuss and try to provide a historical example.

How can people with different social values live together?

  • Should all students at a high school have the same values?
  • Should all people be allowed to share their values at school?

Should a majority have the power to coerce minorities to act against their conscience?

  • If a majority of students believe that uniforms should be imposed should everyone be forced to comply?
  • If a majority of students believe that a morning prayer should be practiced every day, should that become the policy?

2. Introduction of Focus Question

Should the federal government deny people access to their religion?

  • How does this question relate to the questions above?
  • Mentimeter poll and Discussion: why do we see the numbers so heavily skewed one direction?

3. Introduction to Target Question

Present target question:

Should the U.S. Forest Service have the power to build a road and to permit timber harvesting on the Six Rivers National Forest in the Siskiyou Mountains or should a religious community of some 4,500 persons who at the core of their beliefs, use the area for meditation and preparation for rituals?

Present Quote: “Over the years, the GO Road became much more than a conflict over natural resources. In large measure, it was a clash of two cultures–one driven by economic imperatives that demanded the landscape be altered and put to use to satisfy human material needs; the other asking that the landscape be left intact for the spiritual renewal and well-being of its inhabitants. Widely differing value systems held by Indians, environmentalists, and Forest Service personnel, more than anything else, fueled the fires of the GO Road dispute.”   -Robert Dale

4.  Point of Drama: Reading the Court Transcript 

Court transcript (copies made or presented to class) is linked in the “Materials” section of “The Gasquet to Orleans Road Controversy Lesson Overview and Materials.  This will need 3 readers and it’s helpful if the teachers serves as the reader of Ms. Breanan due to length and language. 

After reading, students will explore the following questions:

  • What stands out to you?
  • What did she say about the land? People? Needs? Issues
  • Who does she represent?
  • Why was she in court?

5.  Background of Area and Summary of Issue

*All maps and other materials are linked in the “Materials” section.

It’s helpful to have students complete a map on the area for familiarity with region, rivers, and mountains (not provided).  Then students will read the Background and Summary of area pre-road, and review Timeline Summary of events from 19602-1980s.  Students should refocus back to the major question: Who should be able to use the land?

6.  Presentation of Differing Viewpoints

Create expert groups by breaking students into groups of 3 or 4, depending on class size. Students should use the graphic organizer to complete the graphic organizer. The groups are:

Next, students will read their summary positions on the issue of the road and analyze the primary source.  

This part of the lesson will conclude with a class discussion, where students share out major ideas and thoughts of each position and fill in their organizer as other groups present.  Use a Mentimeter poll to see where students stand on the target question and rank the groups in the order that you think they should have access to the lands in question. 

7.  Presentation of Court Rulings

First, review the 1983 ruling and the 1986 Appellate Decision. That page also includes the SC decision and you might want to alter if giving to students.

Next, listen to the 1987 Supreme Court Case G-O Road oral arguments (total time is about 56 minutes and transcript is provided). Conduct a second Mentimeter poll: Who do you think won based on the oral arguments? 

Next is the 1988 Supreme Court Decision.  (Copies include majority and minority decisions.) This section is complicated and will require a teacher-led breakdown.  You can also go here for basic ideas of the decision (also includes audio component).

Finally, look at the International Law perspective and see the Summary of Court Cases to learn how the case was taken to the Organization of the American States.

8.  Outcome of Situation

A series of laws were passed that barred the construction of the road; see the document titled “Legislation” for a summary of laws that were passed that helped to protect the land in question after the Supreme Court decision.

9.  Assessment

Student Activity Matrix (page 9) will serve as a portion of the assessment.  A student reflection on the court cases and arguments used will also be completed, and students will answer the following questions:

  • Do they feel justice was served?
  • Can they think of other potential solutions to the case?
  • Are there any circumstances under which the case should be re-evaluated?
  • If this issue were to arise again, how might they proceed? What actions might they take? What would be most meaningful?

Extensions and/or Enrichment

  1. Look at other examples of the exercise of Native Tribal rights on land or religious practices: See document for potential cases
  2. Have students create a presentation on the issues in the case and discuss the outcome.

Oscar Howe: Art, Culture, and Indigenous Connection to the Land

Picture of painting of indigenous person in blue background with ducks flying around.

“Traditional ecological knowledge is a cumulative body of knowledge and beliefs, handed down through generations by cultural transmission, about the relationship of living beings (including humans) with one another and with their environment….”- Fikret Berkes

Overview and Context

This lesson helps students (8th grade and up) learn about the removal of Indigenous people from their land became a federal policy with the passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830; it is part of a larger unit on the Removal Act. The process of removal created upheaval, suffering, and death among Indian people. However, they have survived and thrive as their own culture today.

One way the culture and history has been kept alive has been through stories and art. Oscar Howe was an artist who greatly contributed to recording this painful past while refusing to be limited to traditional art.  Although this particular lesson focuses on Oscar Howe, this approach and these materials could be applied to another indigenous artist, perhaps one local to your area.

Related California History Standards

  1. 8.8 Students analyze the divergent paths of the American people in the West from 1800 to the mid-1800s and the challenges they faced.
  2. 2.Describe the purpose, challenges, and economic incentives associated with westward expansion, including the concept of Manifest Destiny (e.g., the Lewis and Clark expedition, accounts of the removal of Indians, the Cherokees’ “Trail of Tears,” settlement of the Great Plains) and the territorial acquisitions that spanned numerous decades.

Learning Objectives

Through the biography and art of Oscar Howe, students will begin to explore the importance of Native lands, lasting effects of Indian Removal policy on Indigenous people, and how art and poetry can be used to maintain and rebuild connections to land and culture.


Students will write their own poetry and will then use their descriptions to create a watercolor painting using the colors, and shapes of the land.


  1. Slide show of Oscar Howe’s life and art; “I am From” poetry outline; watercolor paints and paper.
  2. Save the Salmon TEK Curriculum
  3. Poem Template (see below); also see “I Am From” Poem and “Where I’m From” Poem
  4. Rick Bartow Bear Dancer Image
  5. Rick Bartow Mask Image
  6. Dakota Modern Oscar Howe Image
  7. Oscar Howe Modern Dakota Fighting Bucks Image
  8. Oscar Howe Modern Dakota Sun Dance Image
  9. Oscar Howe Mazuha Hokshina Image
  10. Oscar Howe Oktomi and Ducks 2 Image


This is a continued lesson about the Indian Removal Act. This lesson should take students to more of a feeling place to try to understand more deeply what it means to be connected to the land.

Step-by-Step Instructional Plan

1. Review and Reflection

Teacher will begin by reading Land Acknowledgement and reviewing the previous day’s lesson about Andrew Jackson and the Indian Removal Act.

Next, teacher will ask students to do the following:

  1. Close your eyes and think of a special place you have gone outside, out in nature.
  2. Imagine the sounds, the colors, the shapes.
  3. Open your eyes and write some adjectives that come to mind that would describe this place. Just a list, try to be as descriptive as possible.

Next, the teacher will ask a volunteer to read these quotes out loud:

The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites one family. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it.  Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. The earth is sacred and men and animals are but one part of it. Treat the earth with respect so that it lasts for centuries to come and is a place of wonder and beauty for our children.”― Excerpt from Chief Seattle

It is important to acknowledge the difference between western and Indigenous worldviews, particularly how they refer to and engage with Land and natural resources. Settler colonialism has attempted to separate humans from their environment by trying to convince us that we are somehow better or more sophisticated than plants, animals, rivers, or other natural resources. We have therefore been taught that it is our right to manage the Land as we see fit, and to harness its benefits for our own use, while neglecting the needs of entire ecosystems. Alternatively, Indigenous Peoples believe it is their responsibility to care for the Lands and Waters, and to maintain balance and reciprocity in order to ensure the health of the world as a whole.” ―  Save the Salmon

2. Introduction to Oscar Howe

Share the Slideshow presentation and read the poetry resources – “I Am From” Poem and “Where I’m From” Poem – together.

3. Writing the Poem

The instructor can use the poem template (below) and guide students through writing their own poems.


I am from (a specific item from your childhood home)

from (two objects from your past)

I am from (a phrase describing your childhood home)

And (more description of your childhood home)

I am from (a plant or tree near where you live)

Whose (personify that natural object)

I am from (two natural landmarks near where you live)

from (two colors or shapes of the land where you live)

And from (two family celebrations and/or traditions)

from (describe the seasons of these celebrations)

I am from (your heritage)

from (two foods from your family history)

from (a specific event in the life of an ancestor)

I am from (what you love most about where you live)

Related Resources

  1. The Art of Oscar Howe, National Museum of the American Indian
  2. The Indian Removal Act, Library of Congress
  3. Oscar Howe biography, South Dakota State University

Chinese-American History in Northern California

Picture of mural featuring a man, a bird, a blue and yellow background, and the words Historic Chinatown

Overview and Context

This lesson was created to learn about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 through studying murals in Eureka, Northern California.  Although this particular lesson was centered around the history of Chinese Americans in a specific area, the lessons about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882—and the consequences that followed—could be applied to other learning contexts for high school-aged students.  Students analyze the relationship among the rise of industrialization, large scale rural-to-urban migration, and massive immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe and Asia.

Learning Objectives

Using the Eureka Mural titled “Fowl” as a central art piece, students will then learn about the history of Chinese Americans in the Eureka, Northern California Area and the consequences of the Chinese Exclusion Act.


Guided notes and response sheets as well as verbal discussion about the use of a podcast when viewing a piece of artwork.


  1. Chinese Immigration and Exclusion: Eureka Chinatown and Local History (Google slides)
  2. Chinese Immigration and Exclusion guided notes (Google doc)

Screenshot of powerpoint showing slides educating students about Chinese Immigration.

Step-by-Step Instructional Plan

1. Exploring Background Information

First, students will watch the following clips about Chinese exclusion:

The dark history of the Chinese Exclusion Act – Robert Chang, Ted-ED

The Chinese Exclusion Act, NBC News Learn

Using the Chinese Immigration and Exclusion guided notes, students are told to identify three things they learned or found interesting in the videos.  Next, students will read the timeline and write a hypothesis for why Chinese immigration was restricted in 1882.

2. Document Analysis

Second, have students view the Chinese Immigration and Exclusion: Eureka Chinatown and Local History using the Chinese Immigration and Exclusion guided notes again which has questions to guide students through analysis.  In addition, using all five documents, students will discuss why Chinese immigration was restricted in 1882.

Document A

  • Who wrote this document?
  • Who did this organization represent?
  • Why might the members of this organization have held these views?
  • What evidence does this document provide about why Chinese immigration was restricted in 1882?

Document B

  • How might the economic conditions described Doc B have influenced the opinion of the Pioneer Laundry Workers in Doc A?
  • Does this document provide evidence about what led to the restriction of Chinese immigration in 1882? Why or why not?

Document C

  • What is Pixley’s argument for ending Chinese immigration?
  • Where had Pixley been attorney general? 
  • How might this corroborate information in the timeline?
  • Where did Pixley give this testimony? 
  • What does this suggest about American voters’ opinions about Chinese immigration?
  • What evidence does this document provide about why Chinese immigration was restricted in 1882?

Document D

  • Who wrote the document? 
  • How was the author’s perspective different from the authors of the other documents?
  • Despite the differences in perspective, how does the author’s letter corroborate Document A?
  •  How does it corroborate Document C?
  • What evidence does this document provide about why Chinese immigration was restricted in 1882?

3. Reflection and Writing

Students will listen to a podcast and write a few sentences reflecting on the podcast, including interesting points of content about the mural and Eureka Chinese History.

Students will also spend some time browsing the Clarke Museum website (local museum website) on Immigration, Expulsion and Homecoming: The Legacy of the Chinese Exclusion in Humboldt County and discuss five interesting facts learned from this resource. 

Extensions and/or Enrichment

  1. The Chinese Expulsion, North Coast Journal
  2. Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, National Archives
  3. Chinese Exclusion, Library of Congress
  4. The Forgotten History of Purging Chinese from America, The New Yorker

Advocacy for Rivers

Overview and Context 

This unit will contain several lessons for students to contextualize their geographical relationship to their local watershed and determine local water issues pertaining to the watershed. Students will create a presentation utilizing a green screen app. This unit is adapted from the: “Advocacy & Water Protection in Native California Curriculum” developed by Save California Salmon. Also used is curriculum from Teacher’s Curriculum Institute (TCI) sections: Attending a Public Meeting & Testifying Before a Public Body.  This lesson was created for grades 6-12, and can be adapted for students to learn and write about other local environmental areas and issues, particularly issues that involve water and indigenous land.

Related California Standards

  1. CCSS. ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.1
  3. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.11-12
  4. HSS10.3.2
  5. HSS.11.1
  6. HSS.12.8
  7. HSS.11.6.4
  8. HSS.11.8.6
  9. HS-ESS2-2
  10. HS-LS2-7

Learning Objectives

  1. Students will learn to contextualize where they live within a watershed and determine the conditions of that watershed.
  2. Students will develop knowledge about local histories and analyze local environmental issues.
  3. Students will learn how to write a letter to their local government agency or official about local environmental issues.
  4. Students will learn about community advocacy through creating a three minute presentation/testimony that will be memorialized as a green screen.


Students will be assessed through multiple measures. They will have completed graphic organizers throughout the unit. They will have a completed letter to a local government official or agency detailing what their concerns are for their watershed and the people that rely on the resources for the local watershed. Students will have created a green screen that will demonstrate students’ potential to advocate for a local watershed.

Resources and Preparation


  1. Paper and pens/pencils
  2. Internet access/laptops
  3. Green Screen materials: green backdrop, tablets with green screen app, microphones
  4. Graphic Organizers


INTRO Trump Water Plan, the Shasta Dam Raise and the Fight for Sacramento River Bay Delta Salmon

Trump Water Plan, the Shasta Dam Raise, and the Fight for Sacramento River Bay Delta Salmon

INTRO Bringing Salmon Home Eel River Dam Removal

Bringing Salmon Home Eel River Dam Removal

INTRO Telling Your Story Outreach and Media

Telling Your Story Outreach and Media

Youth Water Advocacy & Education


  1. Preview lessons 1.3, 1.4, 3.3 & 3.4 from: Advocacy & Water Protection in Native California Curriculum. Also, preview lessons from TCI curriculum: Attending a Public Meeting & Testifying Before a Public Body.
  2. Preview: How’s my Waterway? website and pick a location close to the school site to highlight and demonstrate how the website works.
  3. Collect and prepare materials for green screen recording: green drop cloth, tablets with GS App, microphones.

Step-by-Step Instructional Plan

Day 1: How has California water policy and management impacted daily lives? 

  1. Discussion questions: Do you have access to clean water? Have you experienced droughts or flooding? Are there any canals or dams near where you live? (Advocacy & Water Protection, page 8). Create a classroom agreement if one is not already in place.
  2. Students will watch a video discussing the Shasta Dam and the daming that has occurred with the resulting environmental degradation. Graphic organizer will be provided.
  3. Video Reflections:
    • See Appendix 1: 1.3 Matching Activity for a worksheet to complete while students watch presentations by Regina Chichizola and Morning Star Gali (Advocacy & Water Protection, page 20)
    • In this session, Morning Star Gali and Chief Caleen Sisk both speak of the differing problems that are faced by non-federally recognized, unacknowledged, terminated, disenrolled, and disenfranchised Tribes and Tribal peoples. What are some of these problems?
    • How is federal recognition tied to the ability for Tribes to access resources and support?
    • Summarize what Chief Caleen Sisk says about 1) the importance of salmon to ecosystems and 2) the importance of salmon to Winnemem Wintu peoples.
    • How has the Shasta Dam impacted the ability for Winnemem Wintu peoples to participate in traditional practices or care for their ancestral homelands? (Advocacy & Water Protection, page 20)
  4. Students will be guided to the ‘How’s my watershed?’ website and shown how to discover their local watershed. Graphic organizer will be provided.

Day 2: How has daming affected the ecosystem? 

  1. Students will watch a video about the Eel River and the effects that daming has had on the ecosystem downstream. Graphic organizer will be provided.
  2. Students will be tasked with writing a letter to a local government representative about the conditions of the Eel, Klamath or any other watershed. They will be asked to report on their findings from the “How’s my watershed?” exercise and incorporate at least three actions that local officials may take to remediate or take action.
  3. Exercise 3, Lesson 1.4
    • The Shasta Dam Raise would drown cultural and sacred sites used by the Winnemem Wintu peoples to this day and would further degrade salmon rearing habitat.
    • Option: Write to the Department of Interior telling them why the Shasta Dam should not be raised. (See Module 3 for information on how to write letters to public officials.) (Advocacy & Water Protection, page 21)

Day 3: How can students take action through writing? 

  1. Students will edit letters to their government officials.
  2. Students will watch a video about writing for media and persuasive writing and create talking points for their Green Screen Project.
  3. Video reflection (Advocacy & Water Protection, page 54):What are some examples of advocacy and some components of a successful campaign as described by Regina Chichizola? Have you ever participated in any of these activities? (E.g. public outreach, education, rallies, public speaking). How did it make you feel? What do you think makes for effective campaign strategies
    • How can media be a useful tool for advocacy? What other types of media might be useful? (Eg. social media, YouTube, blogs, magazines/zines, community newsletters, resource groups, story maps).
    • Which types of media reach which audiences? How do their stories and styles differ?
    • What kinds of things influence which stories are covered by the media? Has your perspective ever changed after hearing about an issue through a media source? What is a topic that you wish was covered more in the media? How can media be made more equitable in the types of stories they cover?
    • Look up some examples of press releases and op-eds. What are key aspects of writing a story or press release? How do they address the who, what, where, when, and why? Who is a good spokesperson or center for a story? How does explaining how you are impacted personally fit in with the sharing of facts and information? (Advocacy & Water Protection, page 54)
  4. Exercise 4: Proposing Solutions (Advocacy & Water Protection, page 57):
    Think of the water-problem you have been researching. Design a potential solution to this problem. Does it require a policy change or new regulations? Does it require that infrastructure like dams be removed? Does it require that a source of pollution be prevented from getting into waterways?
    Write a letter to an official or create an infomercial describing your proposed solution. Explain how it would work and why it is important. Think about using diagrams and images. You could create before and after images or scientific literature to predict what this solution might do to the water system.

Days 4 and 5: Video Creations, Presentations, and Celebrations 

  1. Students will create a green screen video about their talking points with the idea that it would be a presentation/testimony for the initial three minutes of public comment at a public meeting.
  2. Students will be shown a quick video about the application they’re using and be given time to practice what they have stated. Students will tape each other and use their devices to develop the background of their videos.
  3. After everyone has created videos, a class celebration will occur, where all videos will be played together, whole group.


ELL/Below Grade Level

  1. Students may choose to create testimony/presentation in their native language having a partner that could also give the presentation in English. Both languages could be used in the final recorded presentation.
  2. Students will be given sentence frames for classwork and model responses will be demonstrated to the whole group.
  3. All instructions will be given both orally and in written form in Google Classroom.
  4. Access to Google Translate can be offered.
  5. Modified work will be assigned as per IEP or 504 plans.

Accelerated Learners

  1. Students may create a CANVA infographic that visually summarizes their research and talking points.
  2. Students may be offered an opportunity to explore the Fish Wars that occurred in the region and/or learn about water policy and law.

Extensions and/or Enrichment:

There is an “Analyzing Symbolism in Art with a Local Artist” unit that highlights the work of Lyn Risling. Students may create art pieces that demonstrate advocacy for a watershed or river.

Related Resources:

Saving California Salmon has also created a TEK curriculum for middle school students: Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Science & Management.

How to Question the World Around You

Picture of the town of Scotia, black and white photo, 1888

Overview and Context

In this lesson, students will continue to learn how to create productive questions on any given topic in order to drive the conversation.  This lesson was created for 5th-8th students in rural Humboldt County (Northern California) to learn about the local area (the town of Scotia) but could be adapted for other topics and/or for grades 1-4.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to critically think and form questions about a specific topic.


Students will interview community members as part of their research.


  1. Students will need access to images related to the topic of discussion, a journal or graphic organizer to write questions and thoughts, and an environment in which they are able to discuss and formulate questions.
  2. Questioning Sentence Stems (Google doc; sourced from Middleweb, May 2019)
  3. See-Think-Wonder Graphic Organizer (pdf)
  4. See-Think-Wonder Graphic Organizer Option #2 (pdf)
  5. Slideshow with a range of photos of the town of Scotia along with related links (Google slides)


Prior to this lesson students have spent time throughout the school year going over the question stems. The question stems are a resource for the students that they are used to using on a regular basis. The teacher will need to find visuals for the topic they are teaching in class. These visuals can be images, infographics, objects, etc. There should just be a strong connection between the visual and the topic being discussed.

Step-by-Step Instructional Plan

1. See Think Wonder Strategy and Graphic Organizer

First, teacher will distribute the graphic organizer and discuss the expectations of the SEE-THINK-WONDER strategy.  Teacher will give students time to complete one section at a time. In between each section take a small amount of time to debrief what the students have seen in the picture. (This is a good time to reteach the difference between see-think-wonder) Continue this process through each section of the graphic organizer. Sometimes depending on the group of students, the teacher might need to break them up even further or one section each day to allow for processing and retention.

A grid with the words See Think Wonder for students to record ideas


2. Conclusion Statements and Wonder Questions

After the students have completed the activity, students should write a conclusion statement about what they have learned from the image to help them better understand the overall project. Using this information, students will brainstorm 1-2 questions that could be asked about the topic to help them better understand. In this specific situation, students will develop questions about Scotia’s past that they wonder about.

Next Steps 

Students will use the questions created during the brainstorming lesson to interview local community members to learn more about the history of Scotia.

Related Resources:

  1. Teaching Students How to Ask Productive Questions, Edutopia, June 2019
  2. See-Think-Wonder Routine from the Rochester Community Schools

Humans of Our School

Overview and Context

This lesson is aimed at grades 4-6, and will promote student research and learning about their community through the principles of listening and questioning.  Students will apply these principles to an interview of one of their school’s staff members and use writing skills to tell the story they uncover.  Some of these lessons may be one day lessons, but several of them will take multiple days or even a week.


Students will be assessed through the attached rubric as well as through their Google Slides presentation.

Resources and Materials


  1. Humans of New York book and/or Humans of New York website
  2. Rubric (Google Doc) 
  3. Camera or cell phone
  4. Laptop or other way to use the internet
  5. Google Slides


A Step-by-Step Plan for Teaching Narrative Writing from Cult of Pedagogy: Author Jennifer Gonzalez shares the process she used to teach narrative writing to middle school students.

The Best of Humans of New York

Full Frame Essay: Humans of New York – A Global Community Connecting through Photographs

Step-by-Step Instructional Plan

Lesson 1: Overview: Why are we doing this?

This lesson is focused on learning about our school community and building connections between students and staff through shared experiences and storytelling. Students will learn how to conduct an interview, take photos that show emotions and write a narrative based on their interview.

Students will be given a general overview of the purpose of the lesson, which are:

  1. To form connections between students and staff.
  2. To learn interview techniques such as broad questions, listening, paraphrasing, and follow-up questions.
  3. To identify emotions the speaker is showing and capture these feelings in photographic form.
  4. To collaborate with a partner.
  5. To write a narrative based on the interview.
  6. To create a Google Slide presentation with pictures and story of interview subject.

Lesson 2: Identifying Emotions

After students have been given an overview of the unit we will begin by reading several of Brandon’s photo blogs. We will identify emotions of the subjects in Brandon’s pictures and compare what we see in the pictures to the emotions we identify in the narrative.

Lesson 3: What makes a good interview question for this assignment?

Ask open ended questions that invite the interviewee to tell a story about his or her life. We will brainstorm questions. We will focus on shared experiences in our community, such as how the fires affect us, the river, the importance of salmon and water and native dances. We will also discuss questions that are more generalized to the human experience, such as childhood, holidays, pets, etc.

Lesson 4: Role play

With a partner, role play a situation that you would find yourself in as a Humans photographer. One person will be the subject, and the other will be the interviewer. Students will need to think about the following. How will you approach your subject? How long will your interaction take? What type of energy will you need to make the subject feel welcomed and open? What kind of follow up questions are needed (and when) in order to elicit more information and feelings from the interviewee.

Lesson 5: Preparing the script

Using the list of questions the class has brainstormed, students will create a script for approaching staff to interview for our Humans of our School project. The script will include an opening conversation starter and a question about whether they are comfortable allowing you to take their photo. (All staff will be approached by me ahead of time so that I know they are willing to be interviewed, and can help prompt students if they get stuck) A few thought-provoking questions (both positive and negative) will get your subject to share their story—lastly, a wrap-up statement thanking your subject for their time.

Lesson 6: Becoming a photographer

We will look through the photos in one of Brandon’s books to find a few key features that make his photos memorable. Throughout all of his books, the techniques he uses are crafted so that the reader can better connect with his subject while getting a feeling for the subject’s surroundings. When taking photos for this project, keep these ideas in mind.

Try Different Angles:

  1. First, it is essential to look at the use angles in all of Brandon’s photos. You will rarely see an image in which the subject sits/stands directly in front of the camera. The subject will typically be seen with a tilted head or an angled body.At certain angles, objects can also appear larger or smaller than reality. This is a fun way to change the context of the photo.
  2. The angle of the background is a crucial component of Brandon’s photos. You will notice that the subject will always appear perpendicular to the background so that the picture has depth.
  3. You will never see a photo of a subject standing in front of a wall or door. The depth of the images works in unison with the depth of content that the stories convey.

Fill the Frame with Your Subject

  1. Making the subject the highlight of your photo is key to a Humans photo. The subject should always be in the center of your frame or slightly off-center to keep balance.
  2. It is essential to balance the size of the subject with the surroundings. A good photograph needs balance. Try to limit objects that can distract the reader from the face. It is human nature for a reader to look at a person’s face in a picture immediately. Use this to your advantage.

Lesson 7: Writing an Effective Narrative

A narrative is a story told in the first-person point of view, which means the writer uses the word “I.” A narrative should begin with a topic sentence that introduces the subject matter and a specific thought or feeling the writer has. The middle part is called the body. The body is where you explain what happened in the story, usually chronologically. The body can include various components that may include details about the setting or conversations between characters. It is vital to include sensory details in the narrative story. The sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touch you experienced during this period are essential to setting the scene. The narrative ends with a conclusion. A conclusion can include your thoughts or feelings on how the story made you feel emotional, discuss what you learned, wrap up the story, or provide a funny anecdote.

  1. Topic Sentence
  2. Body
  3. Conclusion

Lesson 8: Finding Humanity

In the last assignment of this unit, we will explore the stories of the people that make up our school. Students will become a mini Brandon Stanton at our school to choose staff members to photograph and interview. Using the skills they have attained from this unit, their goal will be to create their very own human entry and make a Google Slide presentation about them. To start, they will need to seek out one or more staff members at our school, eventually sharing one of their stories in their presentation. It is important to have photography, interview, and note-taking skills to be successful.

Lesson 9: Creating a Google slide presentation

Student’s slide presentation will be a collaborative effort where groups are able to share the story of the staff member they interviewed.

National and Local Parks Past and Present

Side by side comparison of redwood trees with people for scale.

Lesson Overview and Context

In this lesson plan, students will be able to get a better understanding of how the cultural and historical landscape has changed over time in Humboldt County California. Students will be focusing on areas of Redwood National Park and Beyond by comparing and contrasting historical/present photos of the park. Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) will be used to help students understand and critically think when they are analyzing a picture. This lesson will help them understand the past and present surroundings of their community and help them engage and connect with their peers through intellectual discussions.

This lesson is an example of how you might create a lesson using the work of a local park–or other nature-based location– in your region as well as a lesson you may use to understand the Redwood National Park’s past and present.  This lesson was originally designed for upper elementary school aged students (and above).

Related California Standards

  1. CC.9-10.W.HST.2.a Text Types and Purposes: Introduce a topic and organize ideas, concepts, and information to make important connections and distinctions; include formatting (e.g., headings), graphics (e.g., figures, tables), and multimedia when useful to aiding comprehension.
  2. CC.9-10.SL.1 Comprehension and Collaboration: Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to use visual thinking strategies to analyze and interpret information through images and academic discussions.


Students will be assessed on their learning objectives through journal writings and academic discussions based on a score by rubric (see below).


  1. Redwood National Park_ Past and Present Responses (PDF)
  2. Rubric (Google Doc link)
  3. Website: Redwood Parks Beyond: Then and Now 

Step-by-Step Instructional Plan

1. Teacher will start the lesson off by posting the 1st image for the whole class to see and ask students to answer the questions “What do you see?”. Each student will have about 5 mins to formulate their response.

2. Teacher will continue asking the same question for images 2-4 and give students 5 mins for each image to formulate a response.

3. After the students have completed their responses, the teacher will then lead the students in a discussion about each image and ask the following questions

  • “What is going on in this picture?”
  • “What do you see that makes you say that?”
  • “What more can we find?”
  • Students will have opportunities to share their responses and build off their peers’ ideas and add to the discussion.

4. Teachers can write down certain questions and responses to see if there are any themes within the pictures.

5. Teacher will then assess verbal and written responses using the rubric to see if students obtained VTS strategies.

Next Steps

Teachers can do this exercise daily to help students develop more VTS strategies through reparations.

Extensions and/or Enrichment

Teachers could have students create a story from the images that they see.

Related Resources

  1. Visual Thinking Strategies
  2. Visible Thinking Routines, Inspiring Inquiry

Visual History

Young black woman in white dress with many flowers around her.

Overview and Context

This lesson was originally created for grades 6-8. It can be easily adapted down (4th and 5th grades) or up (high school) depending on the materials presented, the depth of the discussion on bias, and the amount of historical context given.

In creating this lesson the teacher wanted to combine their experience as an anti-bias educator and teacher of history. Through inquiry and journaling, in this lesson students will learn how to engage with visual primary materials as a way of deepening their understanding of historical themes. This two part lesson is intended to explore themes of cultural, social, racial and gender bias through the lens of art in a concrete way.

The first part of the lesson has students look at art with a critical eye for elements of design without receiving contextual clues about the images, the artists, or the time period beyond the name, date, and art medium. Students will be encouraged to find similarities and differences between paired pieces of art.

The second part of the lesson brings in the concept of “bias”. Students will first discuss what bias is and how it affects perspective (both for the viewer of art, and for the artist creating art). Students will then be given contextual information about the artists, their struggles, and the time period the artwork was created in. After answering journal prompts asking students to think deeply about bias in relation to art, students will then reengage with the artwork through their new lens, demonstrating how bias works while exploring the concept of bias first hand.

Related California Standards 

  1. Writing Standards: Writing/Comprehension and Collaboration:
    1. Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence:
      • a. Introduce claim(s) and organize the reasons and evidence clearly.
      • b. Support claim(s) with clear reasons and relevant evidence, using credible sources and demonstrating an understanding of the topic or text.
      • c. Use words, phrases, and clauses to clarify the relationships among claim(s) and reasons.
      • d. Establish and maintain a formal style.
      • e. Provide a concluding statement or section that follows from the argument presented.
  2. History and Social Studies Standards: 6th Grade Standards Historical Interpretation
    1. Students explain the central issues and problems from the past, placing people and events in a matrix of time and place.
    2. Students understand and distinguish cause, effect, sequence, and correlation in historical events, including the long- and short-term causal relations.
    3. Students explain the sources of historical continuity and how the combination of ideas and events explains the emergence of new patterns.
    4. Students recognize the role of chance, oversight, and error in history.
    5. Students recognize that interpretations of history are subject to change as new information is uncovered.
  3. Art Standards: 6th Grade Standards
    1. 6.VA:Re7.1 Identify and interpret works of art or design that reveal how people live around the world and what they value.
    2. 6.VA:Re7.2 Analyze ways that visual components and cultural associations suggested by images influence ideas, emotions, and actions.
    3. 6.VA:Re8 Interpret art by distinguishing between relevant and irrelevant contextual information and analyzing subject matter, characteristics of form and structure, and use of media to identify ideas and mood conveyed.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  1. Critically analyze art from a subjective manner, looking at elements of form and composition as a way of connecting artwork to bigger historical themes.
  2. Compare and contrast various themes and elements found within art and discuss/write about their findings both independently and within a peer group.
  3. Synthesize information and make connections between artistic representation of individual elements in relation to the social norms and beliefs of a particular time period or culture in relation to other groups.


Assessment will be conducted through guided discussion, graphic organizers, and journal prompts.

Resources and Preparation


  1. Power Point Lesson Guide
  2. Visual History Image BANK–Artwork and Artist (large scale images of artwork along with artist photos)

Screenshot of image bank containing two photos to show an example of what this resource looks like.

3. Pencils, pens, or other writing utensils.


  1. Graphic organizers for group work
  2. Rubric
  3. Journal Prompts
  4. About the Artists Page


  1. Projector or Smart Screen
  2. Personal computers (optional) for extension activities or watching videos.
  3. Videos:

Elements of Art and Principles of Design

Implicit Bias | Concepts Unwrapped


Teachers will need to print out several things (1 copy of the About the Artist Page and Lesson Plan for personal use, class sets of each graphic organizer–parts 1 and 2–and enough copies of the artwork for small group use).  Graphic organizers will also need to be uploaded to google classroom or other digital media for students needing accommodations. PowerPoint is OPTIONAL but can be used together with the printed pictures. If teachers want to show any of the supplemental videos or teach any of the lessons on bias, they will also need to prepare those materials by uploading them to google classroom (or other platform).

Step-by-Step Instructional Plan

PART 1: Initial Analysis

Teacher will introduce the lesson. This can be done using the slide show or through direct instruction. If using the slide show you may want to print out the images for small group work OR you can have each student independently analyze all image or any image set. Images need to be presented in matched sets for the next activity.

Discuss elements of design (show Youtube if time permits, or just go over the vocabulary). (15 mins)

The teacher will have work stations with paired images ready for students to explore. Students will be asked to analyze images following the questions on the graphic organizer. (20 mins)

Teacher will bring students back together for a guided discussion using the images and discussing a bit about the art, the artist, and the subject. The teacher will ask the students about what they noticed about the artwork. Teacher may chose to introduce the concept of bias (20 minutes)

Students will listen and ask questions about the assignment, and will either work independently or be put into small groups and begin looking at the artwork, finding similarities and differences between the works of art, analyzing them on a basic visual level. Then they will listen to historical data about the time period and the artists and answer teacher’s discussion questions either verbally or in written form–such as journaling.

Part 2: Bias and Art 

This discussion will start with a whole group discussion on bias. This can be done using the slide show or as a discussion. Here are some framing questions:

  • What is bias?
  • When you hear the word “bias” what does it mean to you?

After listening to the students’ response, teacher may choose to follow up the definition in the slide show and watch the video if time permits. The definition used is the following definition: The Marriam-Webster Dictionary defines Bias as: “ an inclination of temperament or outlook especially : a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment : prejudice.” It’s important to point out that biases aren’t necessarily “good” or “bad” but they affect how everyone looks at the world. They are preconceptions based on previous experiences or learned social cues.  Teachers can use the “About the Artist” and “Movement Timeline” information sheets to provide a deeper understanding of the artwork, the artists, and the times they lived in.

Part 3: Journaling and Discussion

Afterwards, the teacher will give the students these journal prompt questions to be answered either in written form or verbally.  This should take about 20 minutes to write and another 20 minutes to discuss.

  • What relationship do you think the artist might have had with the subject?
  • Do you think this is an accurate depiction of the subjects or has it been modified by the artist’s bias? In what way?
  • Do you think the artist saw themselves as higher than, equal to, or socially below their subject?
  • How do you think the artist’s background (bias) may have affected their artistic style?

Part 4: Making Connections

Teacher will hand out a second graphic organizer and ask students to return to their groups. As groups, they will analyze the images again, using their new knowledge as a foundation to help them look at the images critically.  This will take about 15 minutes. Students will then discuss the concept of bias during group discussion and respond to the journal prompts or move on to the next graphic organizer activity.  Finally, students will gather in groups to take a second look at the artwork after learning new information about the artwork and the artist.


ELL/Below Grade Level

  1. Have students watch the “Elements of Design” video before beginning art exploration.
  2. Pair students with more advanced students and have them work together to complete elements.
  3. Use element “flash cards” to allow students to make connections non-verbally between artwork and key elements.

Accelerated Learners

Challenge these students to answer the extension questions: Does the relationship between the artist and the subject change the dynamic of the artwork? How does power, privilege, and social status play a role in artistic representation?

Next Steps

The main purpose of this lesson is to teach critical thinking skills. If necessary, students may be given an additional opportunity to analyze the images in a 1 on 1 setting with a teacher or aide.

Extensions and/or Enrichment

  1. Lessons on Bias and Discrimination can be found from the ADL website
  2. Video about Implicit Bias
  3. Bias lesson for kids from
  4. Additional lessons on bias
  5. Elements of Art and Principles of Design video (how to analyze art)

Related Resources

Elements of Art and Design

  1. Massachusetts Art Institute Visual Vocabulary definitions
  2. Funnel, Jennifer. Elements of Art and Principles of Design video

Artists, Artwork, and History

  1. Art Story, The “Frédéric Bazille” (biography)
  2. Encyclopedia Britannica. “Homer Winslow: American Artist.”

Taking Civic Action

Pictures of people protesting holding signs saying "We are the change."

Lesson Overview and Context

This lesson plan guides teachers as they begin a civic engagement project with their students (grades 4-12). The steps involved will be useful in setting up the project. Student choice is essential and this is project-based learning and this lesson plan outlines the initial stages of problem identification and problem exploration.

This unit was created for an after-school enrichment class in which the instructor has access to a mini-van to transport students to various community service providers. Educators who will be implementing this lesson plan during the regular school day will most likely want to arrange guest speakers into the classroom instead of trips off campus.

This unit plan addresses the three phases of civic literacy projects:

  1. Problem Identification: Name the Social Problem
  2. Problem Exploration: Study the Problem, revealing its complexity
  3. Action (Summative Project): Publicly address the problem, seeking to ameliorate it.

Related California Standards and Learning Objectives


  1. College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening, Grades 6-12
    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.
    2. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.
  2. CCSS. ELA-LITERACY.W.8.7–Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.
  3. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.4–Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

Learning Objectives

  1. To foster student engagement in reading and writing.
  2. To foster civic engagement.
  3. To help students realize their civic power and responsibility
  4. Students will identify a problem or situation in their community. They will research the problem and potential solutions, identify who the decision-makers in the community are, and will develop an action plan to bring about awareness and/or positive change or solutions.


Students will create a viable plan for change including a graphic organizer and/or a detailed proposal. Where possible, students will follow through with actions identified in their plan.

Step-by-Step Instructional Plan

Note: If you will be working with a group of students you do not already know, you might want to first have students complete an interest survey. Here’s a sample survey that could be modified for your classroom.

Day 1: Problem Identification: Name the social problem.

  1. Quick Write: What problems do you see anywhere around you that you would like to see solved? What situations would you like to see improved or changed?
  2. Brainstorm: (Whole group) What problems would you like to improve or change?
  3. Teacher: Record ideas/concerns on board or projector divided into these categories:
    1. School
    2. Community/County
    3. State
    4. Country
    5. World
  4. Discuss and record: For each category, who makes decisions in these areas? (i.e. Principal, School Board, City Council, Board of Supervisors, State Assembly and Senate, Federal Government, United Nations, etc.)
  5. Discuss:
    1. Which of the problems listed are we most interested in pursuing?
    2. What do we want to learn more about?
    3. Who might we want to visit and interview?
    4. What questions would we like to ask?
    5. Shall we ask an elected official to come talk to us?
    6. What shall we do at our next meeting?
  6. Discuss/Read: Can young people really make a difference?
    1. Kids Making a Difference and Changing the World,
    2. Amazing Kids Who Make a Difference, Habitat for Humanity
    3. Young People Who Changed the World,
  7. Exit Slip: What have we discussed today that has inspired you? What do you want to learn more about? Specifically, is there something in our community that you’d like to learn more about?

Days 2-4: After-school field trips and community member guests.  

Days 2-4 are designed for an after-school class that can take field trips easily or if community members will be invited to the classroom BEFORE a topic is chosen. If this is not an option for your students, skip to Day 5.  At this point, you may want to create text sets with information that shows varied perspectives for students to discuss and analyze. This literacy work could greatly enhance your students’ ability to analyze local sources of information. Links to appropriate resources can be found at the end of this lesson plan.

  1. Review the following before interviewing representatives of the social service organizations:
    • Where are we going or who are we going to be talking to?
    • What are we going to ask?
  2. Gather materials needed for each student:
    • Pencil
    • Paper with questions written out – be sure students understand who will ask each question.
    • Clipboard
  3. Upon returning to the classroom, or at the end of the interview, have an Exit Slip prepared for each student in which they will indicate what they consider to be the key findings about the organization, their mission, and their future needs/challenges.

Day 5: Decision time!

  1. With students, discuss the Actions to Take list (Google doc)
  2. Discuss: What other actions might we envision? Are these actions feasible for our class to undertake? Add these student-generated ideas to the list on the document.
  3. Decision time:
    1. Have students determine what organization or situation they would like to impact.
    2. List student decisions on a chart or google doc.
    3. Discuss: Who can partner together to research and take action? Remember, there is power in numbers!
    4. Have students form groups and begin completing either of the two forms below:

Next Steps

At this point, students will begin planning their action.  Websites to consider for student analysis of multiple perspectives about contemporary issues:

      1. Schools | AllSides
      2. News Literacy Project
      3. CNN 10
      4. The Learning Network – The New York Times
      5. Above The Noise | PBS

Related Resources

  1. Reading, Writing and Raising Voices: The Centrality of Literacy to Civic Education, National Council of Teachers of English
  2. Ehrenworth, Mary, et al. The Civically Engaged Classroom: Reading, Writing, and Speaking for Change. Heinemann, 2021.
  3. Epstein, Shira Eve. Teaching Civic Literacy Projects: Student Engagement with Social Problems, Grades 4-12. Teachers College Press. 2014.

California Ballot Proposition Infographics

Cartoon humans holding up voting signs.

Overview and Context 

This lesson was created for upper-level high school students in California (grades 11-12) to learn about state-level elections and ballot initiatives. This will promote student interest in and learning in local elections and improve their design capabilities and technological skills through the creation of a digital infographic.  This lesson could be adapted for students to learn about local issues in other areas. This assignment will allow them to get to know websites that will assist them with voting throughout their entire lives.  This assignment will also allow them to play with a possibly new genre re: infographics.


Students will be assessed by presenting their infographics to the class during a gallery walk. Additionally, teachers will use the rubric included here to assess their infographics.

Technology and Resources

  1. Canva free account
  2. Laptop/computer
  3. Proposition Infographic Requirements (Google Doc)
  4. Ballot Proposition Gallery Walk Questions (Google Doc)
  5. Downloadable Rubric (Google Doc)
  6. Voter’s Edge (Non-partisan voter information website)
  7. Open Secrets (Premier non-partisan research group tracking money in U.S. politics and its effect on elections and public policy)

Step-by-Step Instructional Plan:

1. Introduction/Background

This lesson is focused on learning about California ballot propositions. Prior to this project, students will have learned about the ballot proposition system, and general information about the upcoming election. This lesson can be used for any statewide election that includes state ballot propositions.

If students are unfamiliar with Canva, a mini-lesson on the basics of Canva is a good idea. The website is fairly easy to navigate, but students may need help learning how to upload images and customize their infographic.

2. Choosing and Studying a Proposition

Students can and should work with a partner on this project.  Partners will select from the list of propositions that will be held on the ballot during the next election.  Pairs should sign up for a proposition to make sure that each proposition has been assigned. Once all students have selected a proposition, go over the infographic requirement document that can be found here: Proposition Infographic Requirements. Students can use the document to create a draft of all of their information and then copy their text over to Canva.

3. Creating Infographics

Once students have gathered the required information using, Open Secrets and other credible sources that they come across, they will create an infographic using the website Canva. Their infographic should be colorful, organized in a way that makes the information easy to understand, filled with useful and accurate information, and it must include visuals related to the proposition.

4. Sharing Infographics and Gallery Walk 

Once students have completed their infographics, they will be used in class to educate each other about the upcoming election.  If the students are juniors or seniors, they will be voters soon (or already are).

Print each infographic in color if available and on large paper. Each infographic will be placed around the classroom. In groups, students will spend 8-10 minutes examining the infographic at each station. While they read over the infographic, they will respond to the following questions: Ballot Proposition Gallery Walk Questions. Once the class has rotated through all of the stations, we will discuss as a class what they noticed about the props, how they feel about some of them, and we will go over any questions they might have.

The infographics will be posted around the school in order to educate the larger school community. In addition to that, we would share them with the larger community through our school’s official communication channels.

Related Resources:

  1. Ballotopedia: (curated, non-partisan content on all levels of U.S. politics)
  2. Infographics (resource about infographics from CSU San Marcos)