Taking Action
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Taking Action
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Reflecting on September 11
Fostering Diversity
Taking Action

Taking Action gives students a step-by-step framework to plan and implement a civic-participation project in response to the events of September 11.
First, students read a story about a group of high school students and teachers who planned and implemented a Middle East teach-in. Second, they brainstorm project ideas and choose a project to work on. Third, they work in small groups to create project plans, compare plans and combine best elements to make a master plan. Finally, they put their master plan to work and evaluate their progress.

Materials & Preparation
Reading: Planning a Teach-In —1 copy for each participant (See page 2)
Making an Action Plan —1 copy for each group (See page 3)
Additional Project Ideas
Brainstorm Tips  (See page 3)


A. Focus Discussion
Hold a brief discussion by asking "What positive activities did Americans engage in as a response to the events of September 11?"

B. Reading—Planning a Teach in
  1. Have students read Planning a Teach-In (see below).
  2. Hold a brief discussion using the following questions:
  • What was the problem? What was the goal?
  • How did their goal address the events of September 11?
  • How did they set about achieving their goal?
  • Why did they assign tasks?
  • How did they include the community in their project?

C. Classroom Activity--Project Brainstorm

1. Tell students that--like the students who planned the Middle East Teach-In--they are going to plan a project to address issues arising out of September 11. 
2. Conduct a brief discussion by asking:

  • What is the problem you wish to address? 
  • What is your goal?
  • Will your goal help you reflect on the events of September 11
3. Use Brainstorm Tips to brainstorm a project list by asking "How do you want to reflect on the events of September 11?"  
4. Make a list of project ideas students think are important.
5. Choose a project idea for students to implement with an action plan. 

These Additional Project Ideas may help students create their own project plans.

D. Small-Group Activity—Making an Action Plan

  1. Divide into small groups. Give a copy of Making an Action Plan to each group.
  2. Working in small groups, discuss the questions on the action plan. Write down your answers and be prepared to present your version of the action plan to the other groups.
  3. Present your action plan to the others. Discuss which action plans you like best. Combine the best ideas from each group to make a master plan for a civic participation project.
Important! This is a critical moment. Tell students they will probably want to get busy, get out there, and make some waves. But if you don’t know where you are going, it will be pretty tough to get there. So, before you put it in gear and spin your wheels, construct a strong, workable plan of action.

E. Action Project—Make It Happen!
Have students put their master plan to work.

F. Evaluation—Stop and Think
You are now in the process of making your action project happen. How is it going? Take a minute to write or talk as a group about the following questions:
  1. Does your plan work? Are action steps and tasks being accomplished? Is too much time being spent on some things? Too little time on others?
  2. What obstacles have you encountered? How are you solving them?
  3. What have you learned as an individual?


Reflecting on September 11
Fostering Diversity
Reading—Planning a Teach-In

In the aftermath of September 11, a social studies class in New Jersey realized that they had very little understanding about the Middle East—its people, its history, religions, and why so many of its  people harbored such hatred toward America. They also realized that their lack of understanding about the Middle East made it difficult to understand what had happened in New York and Washington, D.C. on September 11.

In order to (1) understand the causes and consequences of the terrorists attacks of September 11, and (2) to foster a better understanding about people of Muslim or Middle-Eastern origin, the New Jersey social studies class decided to organize a Middle-East Teach-In.

A teach-in is a conference that is designed to gather and share information on a certain topic. During the Vietnam War, students and teachers in colleges, universities, and high schools conducted teach-ins about Vietnam—its history, and culture, America’s involvement in Southeast Asia, and options for responding to the war as citizens in a democracy. Since the 1960s, teach-ins have been held on foreign affairs, domestic issues, health, the environment, education, public safety, and dozens of other topics.

A teach-in enlists the aid of experts and participants who are willing to research the teach-in topic. Experts and researchers then gather to present their knowledge and findings to teach-in participants. Debates, panel discussions, and open forums help to broaden understanding and allow everyone to participate. To conduct a Middle-East Teach-In, the class:

  1. Gave their project a name that would make it clear to everybody in  the school what they were doing—A Middle-East Teach-In.
  2. Stated the problem: they didn’t understand the Middle East—its people, history, culture, and politics. Lack of understanding created fear and possible intolerance.
  3. Created a project goal: to improve understanding of the Middle East to ease fears and prevent intolerant behavior in response to September 11.
  4. Wrote a project plan: to outline the subject areas they thought would help improve their understanding of the Middle East.
  5. Assigned tasks: to ensure that all subject areas were covered by presentations or discussions, and that the whole school knew when, where, and how the teach-in would be conducted.
  6. Found resources and partners in the school and community who knew about the Middle East and would be able to help them conduct the teach-in.
  7. Listed obstacles or difficulties that might get in the way of preparing for, publicizing, or conducting the teach-in.
  8. Set up an evaluation procedure to measure the success of the teach-in in achieving its goals.
The social studies class invited the entire school to attend. The Middle East Teach-In was such a success that they presented a second version of the teach-in to the community. Hundreds of citizens of all ages attended the community teach-in.

For Discussion

  • What was the problem? What was the goal?
  • How did their goal address the events of September 11?
  • How did they set about achieving their goal?
  • Why did they assign tasks?
  • How did they include the community in their project?

  Brainstorm Tips

Use these Brainstorm Tips to make a list of possible projects to address issues arising from September 11.
  1. Describe any and all ideas that come to mind.
  2. Work as fast as possible to create a lot of ideas.
  3. Write down each idea.
  4. Don't reject ideas. There are no wrong ideas in a brainstorm.
  5. If you are working with a group, build on each other's ideas.


Handout—Making An Action Plan
You have chosen an action project. Now it is time to create an action plan. Discuss each step and write a clear answer. Each step influences the others. Make sure they all fit together and that they serve the needs and respect the rights of everyone.

Step 1. Project name. Invent a catchy name for your project. Make it something you can live with. You will want to use it on everything connected to the project: flyers, posters, signs.

Step 2. Problem statement. State the problem clearly. How does the problem affect your school or community? What individuals or groups are most affected?

Step 3. Project Goal. What do you want to achieve with your project? Write a one-sentence vision statement.

Step 4. Project Plan. What do you need to do? Write down the steps you will do to accomplish your goal.

Step 5. Tasks. What activities and tasks must you complete to do the project? Include:
•    descriptions of meetings
•    necessary research
•    outreach to experts, government officials, and other potential project partners
•    materials needed
•    licensing and other permissions required
•    locations
•    budgets, fundraising
Important! Who will be responsible for each of these activities and tasks?

Step 6. Resources and partners.
Who is likely to support your project? List different groups or individuals who can help you.

Step 7. Obstacles. List some obstacles or difficulties you might encounter while doing your project. Who is likely to oppose your project?

Step 8. Evaluation and reflection. How will you measure the success of your project? Be specific.