Oregon Humanities Curriculum Guides

Oregon Humanities has developed a series of curriculum guides based on stories from our magazine. Our guides contain essential questions, standards, scoring guides, scaffolded lesson plans, printouts, and many other resources.

Good Hair: Exploring Identity and Questioning Expectations

The halls of every high school house a daily parade of hair and clothing styles that can change and shift at a dizzying pace. What might be an ostensibly superficial spectacle to onlookers actually signals a momentous process of self-exploration and identity experimentation. As educator Chuck Glaeser notes, “Adolescents are in a constant state of flux, where they are attempting to define who they are and who they will become. They also have to learn to filter and synthesize the various messages about identity from a multitude of sources: parents, teachers, coaches, community and religious leaders, the media, and peers, which yield questions such as: Who am I? Am I okay, or should I change? Who should I be? How do I become what people want me to be?”  High school students’ fashion choices are simultaneously public and personal manifestations of their inner struggle with these questions.

In these lessons, students will read and study the essay “Good Hair,” and use it as an entry point for social critique and the exploration of past and present realities of identity, family, gender, race, and appearance.

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Hidden Histories: The Farmers of Tanner Creek

Too often, students view history as a static entity, the result of inexorable, autonomous forces coming to rest at foregone conclusions. But as Portland educator Linda Christensen writes, social justice education demands that we help students understand that “history is not inevitable…there are spaces where it can bend, change, and become more just.”* When students apply a social justice lens to history, they discover the organic nature of change. This leads students to thoughtfully interpret and challenge history-making events happening all around them.

In these lessons, students will delve into a “hidden history” of Portland through the essay “The Farmers of Tanner Creek,” and use it as an entry point for social critique and the exploration of past and present realities of immigration, displacement, gentrification, race, and the American Dream.

*Christensen, Linda. Teaching for Joy and Justice: Re-Imagining the Language Arts Classroom. Rethinking Schools, Ltd., 2009.

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Making Peace with Chaos: The Realities of Refugee Experiences

There are 65.3 million refugees on earth today, even more than there were after World War II [source] While it is important for students to be aware of this staggering number and understand the conditions that created it, it is just as crucial that they comprehend the refugee experience on an individual level. Teachers can facilitate this process by using personal stories that humanize the statistics.

In these lessons, students will read and study the essay “Making Peace with Chaos,” which contrasts stereotypes about refugees to the realities of refugees’ lives in Portland. Students will use the essay as an entry point for social critique and the exploration of past and present realities of refugees, displacement, immigration, belonging, and the American Dream.

See full curriculum guide here

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Uncovered: Exploring Immigrant and Identity Stories

Oregon students represent an ever-increasingly diverse array of ethnic, socioeconomic, linguistic, sexual, gender, and immigrant identities; thus, it is crucial that classrooms include alternatives to dominant narratives. U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera notes the urgency of reading and telling historically marginalized stories, which are “small piece[s] of a great migration,” and ultimately, “very big stories, everybody’s stories.” This exploration, including students’ exploration and sharing of their own stories, is a “small way that those in the room can begin to hear each other, to see each other, to become visible in a culture full of stories and images that leave so many out.”

In these lessons, students will read and study the essay “Uncovered,” and use it as an entry point for social critique and the exploration of past and present realities of social identity, immigration, health, family, equity, and civil rights.

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What They Carried: Discovering Refugee Experiences Through Objects

Intolerance is a catalyst for the violence, persecution, and displacement that over 65 million refugees on earth currently face. The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) asserts that “through examination of instances of intolerance, students can deepen their understanding of issues relating to human rights while discovering their personal beliefs.  Exposing  the  conditions, causes,  and  consequences  of  human  intolerance is one  way  to  reduce  fear—a  common  impetus for  intolerance."* The close examination of individual refugee experiences is one of the most effective ways of achieving critical awareness of the personal consequences of human intolerance, and is a necessary step in the journey to empathy, compassion, and ultimately, change—both in classrooms and the wider world.

In these lessons, students will read and study the essay “What They Carried,” and use it as an entry point for social critique and the exploration of past and present realities of immigration, belonging, family, and refugees.

*Moss, Barbara (ed.). “Teaching Tolerance: Resources for Students and Teachers.” Voices from the Middle, vol. 20, no. 3, March 2013, pp. 52-56. National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Resources/Journals/VM/0203-mar2013/VM0203Young.pdf

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Within Makeshift Walls: Injustice Hidden in Plain Sight

Social justice education is a tool of empowerment and critical thinking that our diverse student populations crave and deserve. As Portland educator Linda Christensen writes, “social justice education is actually the critique of society. It’s a critique of the normalization of privilege and power held in the hands of few, at the expense of many… [It] really examines society to help students understand how things came to be. That, yes, we live in a democracy, but that the democracy was not set up to serve everyone in it. Part of students’ understanding racism, classism, [and] sexism is understanding how our society has been set up to perpetuate those hierarchies.” 

In these lessons, students will delve into a “hidden history” of Oregon through the essay “Within Makeshift Walls,” and use it as an entry point for social critique and the exploration of past and present realities of laws and legislation, place, power, race, public policy, civil rights, immigration, and displacement.

See full curriculum guide here

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