Protests Prompt Change in Egypt

By Mary Blow on February 15, 2011
  • 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.

 

 

Egyptian_President_STeps_Down_Scholastic_News Essential Questions to Explore

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

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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

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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.

 

The Power of Social Networking

FLASH_AP110201134720(2)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

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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.

 

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:

 

Technology Connection

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

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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.

 

Related Resources

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 EgyptLarry 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.

 

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Hi, Mindy! Yes, my kids are on fire with this topic. We discussed the "Domino Effect" in the Middle East before we left for mid-winter vacation. They were making predictions. I can't wait to get back to school so they can share the current events in Libya. Protests are not going as well as those in Egypt--not to minimize the sacrifices that took place in Egypt, but I think this is going to be extremely violent. We are posting newspaper clippings in our room and discussing the impact lives: stock market, fuel prices, jobs, etc. They care more when there is a personal connection. This is real life stuff! They love it. ~Have a nice day, Mary

Middle school students love to talk about power. These lessons will help them to explore the theme of power using current issues. Students will benefit from the connections to global issues.

Hi, Ryan, I am glad you like the blog. I try my best to get resources and ideas out to everyone in a timely manner. ~Enjoy, Mary

Great timely resource!

Hi, USB3.0, Thank you for the nice words. I appreciate your spreading the words and encouraging other educators to join the blog. ~Have a nice day, Mary

Hi, Sandra,

Thank you for the compliments. It is an exciting topic in my classroom. We were in the middle of a Civil Rights unit. This is a fabulous connection. Experiencing current protests in the Middle East has had significant impact as we live near Fort Drum, a military Army base. Many of my students have family in the Middle East. My sixth graders are tracking events as they unfold in the newspaper, Internet, and television. They are feeling very mature as they engage in political discussions with their friends and families. ~Have a nice day, Mary

What a great lesson you prepared. I loved all the different topics you covered and the map of Egypt. Great job!

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