Lesson Plan: Race and Government Policy in Revolutionary Cuba

What better way to teach tolerance in the classroom today than with lessons that use multimedia, active inquiry and authentic, real-world context?  This lesson plan was originally created in 2010 by Karen Michels, a teacher at the Beacon School, while participating in the Teacher Residency Program of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS) at New York University. Karen’s curricular materials may also be found on the CLACS website.

The lesson aims to interrogate ways in which Fidel Castro tried to eliminate racial inequality and racism in Cuba during the revolutionary period. Included in the lesson is video from the PBS series, Black in Latin America, supplementary reading and activities that focus on questions such as “What are effective government policy approaches for eliminating racial inequality and discrimination?” and “What factors influence how governments deal with racial inequality?”

Among the resources in this lesson, you’ll find a slide presentation and five videos, among them The Black Fear,  common among the ruling establishment in many colonial societies, and Segregation and Discrimination Following Independence, including that found in the U. S. military administration, replicating in Cuba some of the segregation practices under Jim Crow in the American south.

Video Lending Library Feature: THE CIVIL WAR

The study of civics and democracy is common in schools; however, few educators would argue that our country could benefit from a conversation about civility, the  courteous conduct essential in a humane society.  Fortunately, Ken Burns — the filmmaker who brought The Civil War into our living rooms and classrooms with his enduring 1990 documentary — has announced an initiative to foster a national conversation about “Civility and Democracy.”

Civil WarAs part of the project, Burns and fellow filmmaker Lynn Novick will join the National Constitution Center and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to develop educational materials for a conversation on civility that will be conducted in a multi-city tour this year.  In Burns’ words, “There is no topic more important to the ongoing health of our republic than civility and democracy . . . Civility is essential to our ability as a nation to confront together difficult issues, even when we may disagree, and to continue to improve as a country.”

While PBS Home Video and Paramount have reissued The Civil War in a deluxe “150th-anniversary’’ package, the timeless original and other powerful PBS documentaries by Burns and others are available free to educators at WGBY’s  Lending Library.  For images, maps, biographies,, historical documents, related links, fact page and section for educators, visit The Civil War website.

U.S. students: Why are they lagging in science?

International Science Scores

Image from Hechinger Report, 2011

According to a recent write-up by the Hechinger Report, American students are behind as compared to other countries in science achievement.  In this report, they discuss American tendencies to memorize facts rather than study concepts and break down complicated scientific processes.  This may result in redundancy rather than, with each new year, applying focus and a rich understanding to new ideas.

Are we trying to cover too much with students?  Are our kids becoming ‘a mile wide and an inch deep’?  You be the judge.  Read more about this report here:

Share your thoughts with us.  We would love to hear from you: what do you think are the strengths of a good science curriculum?