By Max Millard
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Date: Thursday 3-1-07
Grade Level: 6
School: Presidio Middle School
Teacher: Irene Collier
Supervisor: Gayle Leyton

Ia. Learning objectives and outcomes

- Students will learn about Mahatma Gandhi and his place in history.

- Students will learn about how Gandhi's work was related to the principles of Buddha (ca. 563-483 B.C.) and the Emperor Asoka (reigned 273-232 B.C.).

- Students will see how Gandhi put his teachings into practice by risking his and his followers' lives by practicing ahimsa (nonviolence)

Ib. Language objectives

- Students will learn the following terms: ahimsa, karma, Buddha dharma, vegetarianism

III. Background/rationale

This lesson came on the heels of almost three weeks of study about ancient India, including the Harappan Empire, the Aryan invasion, Buddha, Asoka, and the Hinduism. The class had already completed their billboard project, in which they made billboards using Asoka's edicts about fairness and good citizenship.

IV. Process

A. Into: The teacher introduced Gandhi by showing a film clip from the 1982 movie "Gandhi." The clip showed Gandhi at the beginning of his career as a civil rights leader, at a nonviolent protest in South Africa in which he urged his fellow Indians to burn their passbooks, which represented second-class citizenship for South Africans of Indian origin. In the clip, Gandhi put his body on the line by continuing to throw the passbooks into the fire, even though he was beaten senseless by British police. It was a moving and historically significant scene because it kicked off the nonviolent movement that eventually freed all of India from British rule.

B. Through: The teacher led a discussion about what the students thought of nonviolent resistance, and asked who would have been willing to join Gandhi in the face of police brutality. The teacher also led a discussion about vegetarianism -- why Gandhi followed it, and why it is practiced by Buddhists and Hindus. The teacher then shared with the class these anecdotes about Gandhi:

We should all look for moments when we can perform an act of kindness for strangers. I think of a story I heard about Gandhi, the Indian who led his country to freedom. Once he was trying to catch a train. He ran after it, and just managed to grab the rail and pull himself on board. but in the process, he lost one of his sandals. The men with him told him to come into the car, and they were astonished when they saw him take off his other sandal and throw it after the first one. They said, "Why did you do that?" Gandhi said, "Because now some poor man will come along and say, `Here's a pair of sandals that I can use.'"

A woman in Mahatma Gandhi's village was worried about her young son's liking for sweets. She thought it was not good for her child's health to eat so many sweets. She asked Gandhi to speak to the boy about it, to suggest to him that he should give up sweets. Gandhi thought about the woman's request for a moment, and then told her to bring her son to him in two weeks' time, and he would talk to him. Two weeks later, the woman took her son to see Gandhi, and Gandhi did as he had promised. The boy agreed to do as he was advised, and the mother was happy. But she was puzzled. Why did Gandhi wait two weeks before talking to her son? Gandhi told her: he could hardly ask the boy to give up sweets until he himself had done so, and he knew it would take him at least two weeks to learn to do without them. (told by Al Gore in "Earth in Balance")

Next, the teacher then showed a chart of the most influential persons in history, as described in Michael H. Hart's book "The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History." In the list, Buddha is listed fourth, after Muhammad, Sir Isaac Newton and Jesus Christ. The teacher led a discussion about why Buddha is on the list but Gandhi is not in the top 100 (because he lived so recently).

C. Beyond: The teacher distributed information sheets about Gandhi, shared information about the "Gandhi" movie, and asked the students to write one page about Gandhi for their homework. They could write either facts, opinions, or commentaries about Gandhi. They were encouraged to use the Internet as a resource, and particularly Wikipedia.

VI. Materials

video of "Gandhi" film from 1982
Gandhi anecdotes and information (handout)
Michael H. Hart's "The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History"
poster of the top 15 names on Hart's list
flyer about vegetarianism