California’s Diversity: Past and Present
Lessons for the Fair Education Act of 2011

Lesson 4: California Heroes Presentation Overview

In this lesson, students synthesize information they have learned about California’s diverse cultural history into a presentation on someone they consider a hero from the state. First, they briefly review some of the names they have learned in previous lessons on diversity and civil rights in California. Then they engage in a research and role-play activity on someone from California whom they consider to be a hero.


One to two class periods.


Students will:

  • Create a presentation on a notable person from California’s history.
  • Enact their presentation in the role of the notable person.
  • Outline and organize a bibliography.

Compliance With the Fair Education Act

This lesson is designed to comply with requirements under California Senate Bill 48 (“SB 48”), signed into law as the Fair Education Act in 2011. The act amended California Education Code Section 51204.5 to read as follows:

Instruction in social sciences shall include the early history of California and a study of the role and contributions of both men and women, Native Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, European Americans, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and members of other ethnic and cultural groups, to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States of America, with particular emphasis on portraying the role of these groups in contemporary society.

The act also amended California Education Code Section 60040 to direct governing boards to “include only instructional materials which, in their determination, accurately portray the cultural and racial diversity of our society….”

Common Core State Standards Addressed

SL.8.1. Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

SL.8.4. Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation. (6) Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate. (See grade 8 Language standards 1 and 3 on page 52 for specific expectations.)

L.8.3. Use knowledge of language and its conventions when writing, speaking, reading, or listening.

WHST.8.7. Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.

Materials and Preparation


A. Research Activity: Who is Your California Hero?

1. Focus Discussion. Ask students: In what ways have we seen conflicts over civil rights take place in California?

Look for: Examples from Lessons 1-3, such as racial conflicts (e.g., the Mendez Case and Byron Rumford), women’s conflicts (e.g., Clara Shortridge Foltz), LGBT conflicts (e.g., Harvey Milk), and religious conflicts (e.g., Rajinder Singh).

Tell students that since they have now seen a variety of conflicts over civil rights, they seen the importance that individuals can have in resolving these conflicts. They will learn more about important individuals through an interactive research project.

2. Distribute the Handout A: Who is Your California Hero? and Handout B: List of Notable People From California’s History. Assign or have students select a hero to role play. Review the instructions with students. Check for understanding on the instructions and examples. Remind them that they must research and think about the following:

  • The historical setting in which the hero lived.
  • The hero’s contribution to California’s history, diversity, or civil rights.
  • Important challenges the hero had to face.
  • The hero’s character, actions, and values or principles, especially those expressed in personal writings and speeches.

3. Distribute the Handout C: Create a Bibliography handout. Explain that all good historians cite the sources for all of their important statements, and that they will need to do the same. Explain that a bibliography is a list of sources, and review the instructions for creating a bibliography.

4. Allow time for students to research and prepare their presentations. If students are working in pairs, they should plan to introduce the hero to the class by creating an interview format for their role play. One student will play the role of the hero, and the other will play the role of interviewer. They should both do the research and know the answers to the questions. During the forum, one student will participate as the hero and the other as the interviewer.

B. Individual or Paired Activity — Presentation

1. Call upon an individual or pair to present. Remind students that their Presentation should be no longer than three minutes.

2. Consider having the rest of the class write a question for the heroes while the next individual or pair prepares to “take the stage.” Some of these questions could be given to the students who portrayed the hero to select from to answer in a written assignment. The questions themselves could be used as a demonstration of students’ ability to frame relevant questions that can be answered by historical study and research.

C. Debriefing

Debrief the activity by engaging students in a discussion using questions such as:

  • Which heroes did you gain new respect for? Why?
  • What was the most difficult part of the role play?
  • What new knowledge did you gain about the heroes?
  • What was the most important or valuable information source you used in your research? Why?
  • Is there anything about the hero you studied that you did not know and wish you would have known before the presentations today? Was there any part of the hero’s life you wish you would have learned about in your research, but didn’t?


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