Lesson 4 of 4
One 50-minute class period

Taking a Stand: Models of Civic Participation

From the Unit:

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • define participation, including positive and negative examples
  • relate other Facing History materials and lessons to questions of participation in their communities.
  • analyze historical and contemporary examples of active participation
  • develop and evaluate strategies for participating in society


What does it take to stand up for an idea? Why do some people choose to take action to address a wrong, while others choose to standby and watch? This lesson outline invites students to reflect on several episodes when individuals chose to take stand, and to also consider how these examples relate to their own lives. 


This lesson will continue to build on themes introduced throughout a course based on Holocaust and Human Behavior. Students will also be able to connect their study to historical and contemporary examples of individual and group participation, especially by young people. The particular focus of the resources used in this activity is on individuals who have stood up for a principle, particularly in the face of community opposition.


DVD: Chicano!
DVD: Scout's Honor


  1. Begin this lesson with a brainstorm about the term "participation". Have students share their ideas of both positive and negative examples of participation.
    Develop working definition of participation. To extend this, students could graphically illustrate their notions of participation with collages or drawings.

  2. Ask students to reflect in their journals on the following questions:

    • How does an individual stand up for a principle or a belief?
    • What are the skills required to take such a stand?
    • What are the challenges and risks involved when someone takes such a stand?

    Invite students to share their reflections in small groups, developing a common portrait of participation to then share with the class as a whole. Again, this discussion can be extended through drawings or other visual representations.

  3. Show students a clip from Chicano! Episode 4: Fighting for Political Power in which Mexican American students in Crystal City, TX protest the lack of Latino history and issues in their studies, ultimately leading to the extension of the La Raza Unida political party into Texas.

    Have students discuss the following questions:


    • What were the issues these students confronted?
    • What were the choices open to them, and what choices did they make?
    • What were the consequences and effects of their actions?
    • What can we learn from their decision to take a stand?
  4. Conclude this lesson with a contemporary example of young people actively participating in their communities in order to bring about positive change. (Steven Cozza from Scout's Honor, Alison Williams from "Making No Friends in Mississippi", or the football players in "Joining Together" are potential examples). Connect to students' own community: what are the issues that concern you today in our school, in our community? What steps can you take to effect change? What are the challenges? What are the opportunities and resources available?


Students could revisit the initial questions posed in the activity, and use them to guide independent research on other examples of individual efforts to improve community. This research could be presented through an essay, poster project, or other multimedia presentation tools.

  • How does an individual stand up for a principle or a belief?
  • What are the skills required to take such a stand?
  • What are the challenges and risks involved when someone takes such a stand?


  1. Students can investigate other examples of individuals and small groups working for change in their communities, connected to historical events or contemporary examples. The videos Eyes on the Prize, Out of the Past, and In Whose Honor? all provide excellent examples for these inquiries.

  2. Students can begin to research issues of concern in their own community. Polling or local interviews can be used to uncover issues for students to research.


Recent Changes to Eyes on the Prize Series Availability:

We are no longer able to stream Eyes On The Prize episodes and our library is not able to lend DVDs at this time. The Eyes on the Prize series can be found through Kanopy (a streaming service provided by public libraries) and Amazon Prime. We apologize for the incovenience.


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Lesson 2 of 4
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Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change

Students explore the six steps of nonviolent social change that activists during the civil rights movement practiced.

Lesson 3 of 4
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Tactics of Nonviolence

Students identify the tactics of nonviolent action used during the civil rights movement and consider how these tactics can be used today.

Lesson 4 of 4
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Taking a Stand: Models of Civic Participation

Students build a definition of participation and reflect on several episodes throughout history when young people chose to take a stand.

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