Introduce your students to heroes online with Web sites devoted to people we can admire. Some heroes have received national acclaim; others work tirelessly and thanklessly for issues close to home and our hearts. You can use the resources of the Web to encourage this type of dedication in your students and get them thinking about the people they look up to! Included: Ten Web sites to work into your lessons
What is a hero? Everyone has a unique idea of what earns an individual this special title. Betty Deramus, a columnist for the Detroit News, said, "A hero is simply someone who rises above his own human weaknesses, for an hour, a day, a year, to do something stirring." If we think about it, we can name countless individuals who have the qualities of a "hero" -- historical figures, friends and neighbors, even children!
How can we encourage our students to display the kind of characteristics we admire in heroes? By introducing them to those individuals, and it may be easier to do than you might think. The Web is full of great sources for information about heroes, in local communities, nations, and across the globe. While we strive to meet Deramus's definition of a hero, we can take heart in novelist and short story writer Mary McCarthy's words, "We are the hero of our own story."
Popular personalities. Fourth graders at Greenfield Elementary School in Chesterfield County, Virginia, selected individuals they admired and placed handmade portraits of them on a Web site called My Hero. Each portrait is accompanied by a paragraph that describes the attributes possessed by the individual that make him or her a role model and a hero. Your students may use this fine example of a "hall of heroes" online as a guide as they create their own heroes Web page or a display for your classroom or hallway.
Heroic efforts. A few special Canadians are lending a hand to people in developing countries -- those who are in need of clean drinking water, who lack medical care, and who face the ever-present danger of forgotten landmines. Global Heroes allows students to walk side by side with courageous heroes who are attempting to make life better for others. The interactive treks are divided by grade level. (See It's Your Planet to learn how one Ontario school contributed to the removal of landmines.) Encourage students to get involved in an issue such as this and help them find ways that they can aid organizations and individuals who are working on it.
Special delivery. More often than not, heroes are "normal" people, not celebrities. Finding the stories of those individuals can be a difficult task when so much of what appears in newspapers and magazines focuses on well-known personalities. To assist you in this task, HeroicStories provides tales of local heroes; a free e-mail newsletter is delivered three times per week. Introduce the concept of an uplifting, feel-good newsletter with issues of this e-mail publication, and have your class create articles to be featured in a classroom magazine of heroic stories.
Top 20 heroes. If you had to name 20 heroes of the last 100 years, it wouldn't be an easy task! Thankfully, TIME has already assembled a list of "twenty people who articulate the longings of the past 100 years." Its Web page, TIME 100: Heroes and Icons, tells the story of each figure who was chosen. Have your students read about the lives of the individuals, and ask them to separate the list into smaller groups by category. How will they do it? How are these people alike and different? If the class had to select the most important member of the list, who would it be? Take a vote to find out.
Commemoration of a hero. In the online activity Hero of the Year Stamp, students become members of a committee that will choose a hero to commemorate with a stamp. They read about heroes, select a Hero of the Year, design a stamp with this figure featured on it, and write a letter to the Postal Service to request that their hero be commemorated. The main page of the lesson has links and short directions for the students, and a handy graphic organizer helps them record their notes, thoughts, and ideas.
Model of the month. Calendars can display more than puppies and poster people! Why not have your class make a calendar of role models, one for each month of the year? Role Models on the Web can help with a new personality to admire every month. More than ten celebrities have already been given this honor, and their biographies are accessible through the site. Consider copying the calendar for every member of the class, and you may even place the individuals by their month of birth. This project will really get your students thinking creatively -- about calendars and about the people they look up to!
Comparison of heroes. We all admire odd characters when we are young. Some of us prefer comic book heroes, and others like TV stars. Use this week's Education World teaching master, Hero Meets Superhero, which challenges students to use search engines to gather information about their real-life heroes and their favorite superheroes. Then compare the backgrounds of their real-life and their fantasy heroes and examine what appeals to them about each one.
Fine fellows. The unsung heroes of the Washington, D.C., scene may very well be the White House Fellows. Through this program, qualified young people are given the opportunity to take on leadership roles and gain firsthand experience with government. The White House Fellowships are coveted. Hundreds of applicants submit their information, and only 11 to 19 fellowships are available. Your students can read about the current participants and uncover the process of becoming a White House Fellow. Have them examine the application and think about how they would respond to some of the questions. What are the characteristics needed to serve as a Fellow?
A different day. USA Weekend, in partnership with the Points of Light Foundation, declared the first Make a Difference Day in 1992. In 2008, more than 3 million people answered the call to perform thousands of charitable acts for others. Although this special occasion is a great reason to get involved, you don't need to wait for Make a Difference Day to come to the aid of your community. Declare your own special day, and find a project that you and your students can tackle together.
Kids who care. Even young children are getting into volunteering. Little heroes have improved their communities and shown care for others. The Housing and Urban Development's Kids Next Door Web site introduces students to children who are making a difference. They may read the stories of the young heroes on its pages. When they have finished with a service project of their own, have your students submit their tales to the site. They may be chosen as "Kids Who Care" too!
Historical heroes. Who are the greatest heroes of history? One Web site has published the biographies of many historical figures who could be considered heroes. Make a web chart of the characteristics of heroes, and have your students evaluate the individuals included in the Heroes of History pages. Do these people pass the class's test of heroism? What other figures could be added?
Article by Cara Bafile
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