Protests Prompt Change in Egypt
- Grades: 6–8, 9–12
Why is the world concerned about the protests in Egypt? Throughout world history, there have been many historical protests. People assemble and protest for many different reasons: political, financial, social, religious, etc. Whatever the reason, change is the ultimate goal. Some of these protests have led to significant changes while others have been less effective. Whether or not a protest brings about significant or positive change, the fact remains that people, if suppressed and silenced, will assemble and protest whether or not it is a constitutional right. The following resources and activities provide the opportunity for students to explore world protests by comparing and contrasting past protests with current events in Egypt.
Photo: An Egyptian mother hugs her child as she watches thousands of Egyptian protesters gather at Tahrir square in Cairo, Egypt, on Sunday, January 30, 2011. Copyright Amr Nabil/AP Images.
The article to the right, "Egyptian President Steps Down" by Fred Hichinger of Scholastic Kids News Crop, reports on the recent events at the time that this blog west to press. Click on the image to view the article. President Mubarack has stepped down as a result of protests. I wanted to include this article at the last minute because it depicts the power of protest to reshape society. Below are essential questions that my students will answer as they explore recent events:
- How can protests reshape society and the world we live in?
- How do we know if we can believe what we hear and read in the media: radio, television, newspaper, magazines, or the Internet?
- How can we evaluate whether or not a resource is reliable--especially if it is an Internet resource?
- Why do some countries fear social networking?
Assessing Prior Knowledge
Students engage in a ten-minute think-pair-share activity. Project the picture of the image at the right along with vocabulary words and phrases such as "protest," "riot," "democracy," "suppression," "liberation," "freedom of speech," "freedom of assembly," "freedom to petition," and "freedom of the press." Students write down what they know or think these phrases mean. Give the students one minute to think and three minutes to write. Provide two minutes for them to share their answers with a partner before gathering as a whole class to clarify and introduce the subject of protests.
Photo: Proponents and opponents of the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak run away from riots at Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, on February 2, 2011. Copyright HANNIBAL/NewsCom.
United States Constitution
If necessary, discuss the United States Bill of Rights. According to the First Amendment, Americans have the right to “freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, and freedom to petition the government to right wrongs” ("Explaining the Bill of Rights," Barbara Feinberg). Review the rights and their limitations as outlined in the Constitution. Clarify that not all citizens of all countries have these same rights.
Protests in Egypt Resources
After showing students a map of Egypt, the slide show of pictures, and news clips, have them explore the online resources below. They can use the protest compare & contrast matrix to guide them in the research process.
- "Egyptian President Steps Down" by Fred Hechinger (Scholastic Kids Press Corp, February 9, 2011)
- Map of the Middle East (Scholastic)
- NY Times photo slide show of the protests in Egypt
- “Egyptians Demand Change” by Laura Leigh Davidson (Scholastic News, February 4, 2011)
- “Violent Fighting Breaks Out in Egypt Capital Cairo” (Children's British Broadcasting Corporation, February 3, 2011)
- "Why There Are Angry Demonstrations in Egypt" (British Broadcasting Corporation)
- "An Uprising in Egypt" (Time for Kids 16, no. 17, February 11, 2011)
The Power of Social Networking
Social networking was a key component in successfully assembling and orchestrating the recent protests in Egypt. Blogs or forums provide students with the opportunity to engage in higher level thinking skills in the context of online social networking. Blogs, like this one, permit readers to post a response to a photo, quote, comment, or event. Forums allow the participants to engage in online threaded discussions. Either activity will engage students in evaluating sources and forming or defending opinions based on facts, not opinions. The following resources provide students the chance to exercise these skills:
- Nicholas Kristof’s opinion pages in the NY Times: Follow reporter Nicholas Kristof’s blog as he reports from Egypt. This is a fabulous resource for teaching students to evaluate sources and question opinions.
- "Egypt Antiquities Damaged, at Risk During Unrest" (National Geographic): Watch a video and/or read the transcripts describing looters taking advantage of the protests to steal priceless Egyptian artifacts.
- "The Break-In at Cairo's Prized Museum" by Rania Abouzeid (Time, January 30, 2011) Participate in the Time magazine blog post on the break-in at Cairo’s museum.
- "Egypt's Ancient Treasures Saved" (CNN, February 2, 2011)
- “Mubarak Will Stay Until September” (CNN, February 6, 2011) After watching the video on Egypt’s protest, students post about whether Egypt’s President Mubarak should resign immediately or wait until September. Explain why.
- "Egypt's President Resigns" (Time for Kids, February 11, 2011) After reading the article, students will post about whether or not the the Egyptian president was right to resign or should have have engaged in a gradual transition of power.
Photo above: A young girl standing on a relative's shoulders leads chants against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in downtown Cairo, Egypt, on Tuesday, February 1, 2011. Copyright Ben Curtis/AP Images.
Historical World Protests
Divide the students into groups of four, assigning them to a protest listed below. Students will read the articles about various protests from around the world and complete one graphic organizer per group. Each group glues the graphic organizer onto a large sheet of 18" x 14" construction paper. Each student takes his or her own notes on the construction paper border. They fill in the graphic organizer, combining the notes from all members. They synthesize the information to design a PowerPoint, Glogster, or Prezi presentation to share what they learned with the class.
- “Immigration Protests” by Tiffany Chaparro (Scholastic News, March 28, 2006)
- “Protests in Pakistan” by Karen Fanning (Scholastic News, November 7, 2007)
- “China’s Cheerleaders” by Matthew Forney (The New York Times Upfront)
- “Iranian Leader Protested” by Samantha Henderson (Scholastic News, September 25, 2007)
- “U.S. Embassy Attacked: Protesters Set Belgrade Compound on Fire After Mass Demonstrations” by Laura Leigh Davidson (Scholastic News, February 22, 2008)
- “Olympic Torch Protests” by Dante A. Ciampaglia (Scholastic News, April 10, 2008)
Poetry and Music Connection
Whenever possible, I integrate multiple genres because it provides the opportunity to review the literary elements of each genre. Including poetry and music engages my musicians in the classroom as well. This is a great time to have students write their own epic poems or political songs. Pairing poetry with fiction and nonfiction prepares our students for state testing and engages students in higher level thinking. The following poems and songs, which connect to suppression, civil rights, and protesting, provide great models:
- "Protest" by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
- "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou
- "Dream Deferred" by Langston Hughes
- The Best 10 Protest Songs (from HubPages)
Our students engage in social networking. It is a way of life for them. In this activity, students write an opinion piece or protest poster stating their opinion on whether or not governments should have the power to censor or control our access to the Internet. For background information, see a video focusing on the situation in Egypt, "Bill Gates on Egypt’s Internet Shutdown." During this interview with Katie Couric, Bill Gates gives his perspective on Egypt’s Internet shutdown, which was an attempt to end the protest by preventing the people from communicating with each other. For a focus on China, see “Google's China Problem” by Howard French in The New York Times Upfront, April 3, 2006.
Civil Rights Connection
It is Black History Month, so those of you who are in the middle of a Civil Rights unit may want to adapt the assignment to fit your curriculum. Instead of assigning students to cover protests from around the world, assign groups of students to different protest topics; the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Greensboro Sit-ins, the Little Rock Nine, Freedom Riders, and the Selma to Montgomery March are all options. Students can identify the causes and effects of each protest. Then they can evaluate the outcome.
For more on protests around the world, see the CNN video library of protests and demonstrations. They also provide a day-by-day summary of recent significant events in Egypt. Larry Ferlazzo offers a list of best sites for teaching the protests in Egypt, and Scholastic provides another critical-thinking lesson in "Through Many Lenses: How Are Countries Depicted by the Media." Finally, for general information on Egypt see Fact Monster and Fast Facts.
Enjoy the activities and resources. If you have a resource you would like to share, or you are looking for a resource that isn't listed, please post it below.