Engaging youth in discussions about family planning is difficult for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is the general discomfort adolescents have talking with adults about sex. Sometimes it can be easier to talk about uncomfortable issues when the spotlight is turned on someone else’s situation. This lesson plan offers that opportunity by embedding health information in a social studies lesson.
By focusing on clips from the film Motherland, which features patients at a public maternity hospital in the Philippines, students can take a step back from the topic and learn about it with some critical distance. The lesson provides students with a way to examine policy and practice and learn about birth control methods, without getting mired in controversial debate, personal religious beliefs or their own embarrassment.
Approx. 70 minutes plus homework
- Write a pamphlet that demonstrates knowledge of birth control methods
- Consider the factors that influence family planning strategies and review the benefits and drawbacks of various birth control methods for specific situations
- Learn how a predominantly Catholic country, the Philippines, approaches family planning
- Film clips from Motherland and equipment on which to show them
- Internet access for research
Step 1: Introduction
Introduce the activity to students by saying something like the following:
Nearly every nation in the world has some sort of family planning policy. What is the definition of “family planning”?
Fill in the definition as needed (deciding when to have children and how many to have) and note that government family planning policies can cover a range of issues, including legality of abortion, who should pay for birth control and education methods. Then ask and briefly discuss: Why do governments care about family planning? What is their interest in the matter? Answers might include: keeping mothers and children healthy, which lowers medical costs; making sure children are wanted and can be supported, which lowers the risk of abuse or neglect; and even a desire to promote social goals, such as gender equality.
Let students know that in this activity they are going to look at a family planning policy in one country and see an example of how the policy plays out in real life. That country is the Philippines. Solicit what students already know about the Philippines and fill in gaps as needed. In addition to location, students should know basic demographic information.
For example, the total population of the Philippines is just under 103 million; more than 80 percent of the population identifies as Catholic; nearly everyone is literate; more than one fifth of the population lives in poverty—in rural areas that figure jumps to one third; the unemployment rate for people aged 15 to 25 is above 16 percent.
Additional information is available here.
Step 2: Family Planning Policy
Either individually or in small groups, have students read a summary of the current official family planning policy in the Philippines here. Ask them to list its major features. Briefly discuss whether they were surprised by anything they read. Throughout this lesson, be clear that students are not being asked to agree or disagree with any particular family planning strategy; their job is to understand such strategies and how they are being implemented in the Philippines.
Step 3: Film Viewing Prep
To help students connect policy to real life, introduce students to the documentary Motherland. Let them know they will see clips of a public hospital serving poor mothers in the Philippines. Make it clear that the people they will see represent a significant minority in the island nation. Like all nations, the Philippines has a diverse population, and students should take care not to overgeneralize.
Before you begin showing the clips, tell students they will hear references to certain types of birth control and they need to be clear about what each term means:
- tubal ligation
- the pill
- injection (Depo-Provera)
Step 4: Viewing Clips
Show Clips 1 through 4, pausing between each to check in with students about what they noticed, whether there was anything they could relate to their own experiences and what questions they have. Note that the purpose of viewing these clips is primarily to get a picture of who is being treated at this hospital and the issues they face.
Show Clips 5 and 6. These are explicitly about the family planning information shared by hospital staff. After the final clip, ask if there are any forms of birth control they know about that weren’t mentioned in the film (e.g., the film doesn’t really talk about abstinence as a strategy, nor does it reference implants or vasectomies). Wrap up the discussion by asking what features of the family planning policy that they read seem to address effectively the needs of the people they saw.
To provide students an opportunity to synthesize and personalize what they have learned, pose this scenario: The hospital in the film wants to develop a family planning pamphlet that it can send home with patients or provide to visitors. Their job is to write that pamphlet. It can recommend whatever each student thinks is the best advice (so, for example, students who are strongly in favor of abstinence-only policies can focus on abstinence). The only requirement is that the information they provide be accurate.
Tell students they will be evaluated on the accuracy of their information, clarity of writing and effective use of graphic features (like titles, sub-headings, illustrations and breakout boxes). As an option, you might also assign more advanced students to write cover letters explaining how their pamphlets reflect the directives and goals of the official Philippines family planning policy.
Research and debate current U.S. policy denying monetary aid for family planning to any organization that performs abortions.
Write position papers on the benefits and drawbacks of abstinence-only sex education as a strategy for U.S. schools.
Do a media literacy analysis of a TV series featuring teen parents or pregnant teens. Discuss the options and consequences portrayed. Compare the depiction in Motherland with the depiction in the TV show.
Have students investigate the family planning methods available to them, along with each option’s associated costs. Which are covered by insurance and which are not? How is each obtained? What are the major benefits and drawbacks of each method? Consider inviting a local medical professional to class to answer questions.
The POV website for the film offers information about the film, a discussion guide with additional activity and resource ideas and more.
This list of questions provides a useful starting point for leading rich discussions that challenge students to think critically about documentaries.
Family Planning – Philippines
Government statistics related to family planning
Summary of the government’s family planning policy
Updates on implementation of family planning efforts in the Philippines
Reproductive health service provider and advocacy group that provides educational information related to sexual and reproductive health and rights.
News report featuring Fabella Memorial Hospital summarizing government efforts to promote free family planning services for the poor and religious opposition to those efforts in this majority Catholic nation
Family Planning - General
Global statistics related to family planning and an excellent summary of U.S. efforts to support family planning initiatives in the developing world
Research and statistics on family planning in the U.S.