5 Resources for Teaching About Occupy Wall Street

Image courtesy of edenpictures via Creative Commons.
Alive for more than a month now, the Occupy Wall Street (and beyond) protests have sparked a wildfire of controversy, debate, and participation. Whatever our thoughts about the events unfolding, this is a significant time in the world's history and something that students should be exploring and discussing. Where to start? With younger children, stories, songs, and hands-on activities are great tools. While not directly related to the Occupy issues, in her article about exploring clothing, data, the labor movement, and even protests, teacher Mary Cowhey offers a useful example of how young students can deeply and meaningfully investigate important issues; (and there is no shortage of kid-friendly materials about organizing, protesting, and other relevant issues out there). For teachers with older students, here are 4 resources to get you started.

  1. The New York Times' Learning Network offers the most comprehensive and organized collection thus far. It provides suggested questions, links, and activities for exploring the Occupy movement, with sub-categories unpacking everything from politics, to economics, to the role of social media, to a comparison with other movements, to challenges with law enforcement, to the local impact.
  2. Teachable Moment, which provides lessons and resources for teaching about social responsibility, offers several useful lesson plans, including lessons directly about Occupy Wall Street, as well as broader explorations of joblessness, nonviolence, and economic inequality.
  3. On his blog, Brooklyn, New York, social studies teacher, Stephen Lazar, recently posted links to several resources that he's been using to explore the Occupy movement in his classroom.
  4. While no lesson plans are offered, Yes! Magazine's special ongoing coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement offers numerous video clips, essays, and other content that can provide an excellent source for discussion.
  5. Update: I just found out about a new Facebook Group called Teach Occupy Wall Street, which is designed for teachers to share ideas, lesson plans, resources, etc., in teaching about the Occupy Wall Street Movement.
In using resources like these, it's important to remind students to bring a critical thinking and questioning lens to their exploration. News, other media, and opinion accounts, regardless of where they're from, use certain framing, language, statistics, and coloration because of the reporter's or speaker's biases and worldview. You can help students better understand and analyze the information they're exposed to by using humane education activities such as IHE's Be a C.R.I.T.I.C.

And, we were excited to see that one of our M.Ed. graduates, Susanna Barkataki, was recently featured in the Los Angeles Times for taking her middle school students on a field trip to the Occupy L.A. scene to help them learn more. (We recently interviewed Susanna about how she integrates humane education into her teaching.)

What else have you seen about teachers exploring the Occupy movement in their classrooms?

~ Marsha

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