Police Car.
Mini-Lesson
Current Event

Exploring Contemporary Experiences of Policing and Racial Justice

In this Teaching Idea, students use their head, heart, and conscience to engage with six sources that reflect a range of experiences with policing.

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At a Glance

Mini-Lesson

Language

English — US

Subject

  • History
  • Social Studies

Grade

6–12
  • Culture & Identity
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement
  • Equity & Inclusion

Overview

About This Mini-Lesson

This Teaching Idea introduces students to some of the contemporary issues around policing and racial injustice. Students use their head, heart, and conscience to engage with six different sources, each of which offers a different vantage point. The titles of the sources are listed below, and you can find the excerpts and links to the sources in the Google Slides for this Teaching Idea.

  1. Source 1: A Conversation With Police on Race, New York Times (video)
  2. Source 2: Excerpt from “George Floyd protests: Black police officers see fight for racial justice through personal lens,” LA Times (text)
  3. Source 3:A Personal Story of Racial Profiling,” NPR (audio)
  4. Source 4: Adrian Brandon’s Portrait Series Stolen (art collection)
  5. Source 5: Statistics on Policing and Racial Injustice (text found in Slides)
  6. Source 6: Excerpt from the IACP Law Enforcement Code of Ethics (text)
  7. Optional Homework:The Life Breonna Taylor Lived, In the Words of Her Mother,” Vanity Fair (text)

This mini-lesson is designed to be adaptable. You can use the activities in sequence or choose a selection best suited to your classroom. It includes:

  • 2 activities
  • 2 teaching strategies
  • Student-facing slides 
  • Recommended articles and videos for exploring this topic
  • 2 extension activities

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Activities

Activities

Note: The following instructions guide students to engage with each source as a full class. Alternatively, you could set up a station for each source and ask students to rotate between the stations, moving every five minutes, or you could assign groups of students different sources using the Jigsaw teaching strategy. Depending on how you organize this activity, you may need two class periods to give students enough time to engage with each source.

The integration of head, heart, and conscience is always important to learning, and it’s particularly crucial when students are considering sensitive issues such as policing and the impact of police violence.

Tell your students that they will engage with six different sources on policing and racial injustice, and you want them to use their mind, heart, and conscience as they listen to, view, or read each source.

Ask them to divide a piece of paper into three sections. They should label the sections

Head, Heart, and Conscience. And write the following questions in each section:

Head

What new information did I learn from this source?

Heart

What emotions does this source raise for me?

Conscience

What questions about right and wrong, fairness or injustice, does this source raise for me?

Note: You can show your students an example of this table in the Slides for this Teaching Idea.

Then, project each source in turn, using the Slides for this Mini-Lesson. Plan to give students a total of five minutes to engage with each source. After students have listened to, viewed, or read each source, ask them to choose one of the reflection questions from their Head, Heart, Conscience table and write a short response. You can also ask students to discuss each source briefly in pairs or small groups.

After students have finished viewing or reading each of the six sources, ask them to reflect in their journals using the following prompt:

Which source is still on your mind after the activity? What ideas, feelings, or questions did that source leave you with?

Extension Activities

Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote the article, The Life Breonna Taylor Lived, In the Words of Her Mother, for Vanity Fair. Ask your students to read the article and reflect using the same Head, Heart, Conscience strategy they used for the other sources:

  • Head: What new information did I learn from this source?
  • Heart: What emotions does this source raise for me?
  • Conscience: What questions about right and wrong, fairness or injustice, does this source raise for me?

Note: Vanity Fair offers a limited number of free articles per month. You may want to check to ensure you and your students have access to this article before assigning it.

Ask students to respond to one of the resources through a project. Students can generate their own ideas or use one of the following suggestions:

  1. Create their own art collection, inspired by Adrian Brandon’s portrait series, representing the impact of police violence
  2. Write their own police code of ethics
  3. Research and compile additional statistics on policing
  4. Write a personal reflection on policing

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Facing History and Ourselves is designed for educators who want to help students explore identity, think critically, grow emotionally, act ethically, and participate in civic life. It’s hard work, so we’ve developed some go-to professional learning opportunities to help you along the way.

Using the strategies from Facing History is almost like an awakening.
— Claudia Bautista, Santa Monica, Calif