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        The Grown-Ups | Lesson Plan: Being “Grown-Up”: Understanding Down Syndrome and Redefining Adulthood

        In this lesson, students will explore the challenges that adults with Down syndrome face as they struggle to establish independent lives and relationships as “grown-ups.” Through the documentary film The Grown-Ups by Maite Alberdi, students will understand what Down syndrome is and confront their own biases about the capabilities of adults who live with the condition.

        Lesson Summary

        In this lesson, students will explore the challenges that adults with Down syndrome face as they struggle to establish independent lives and relationships as “grown-ups.” Through the documentary film The Grown-Ups by Maite Alberdi, students will understand what Down syndrome is and confront their own biases about the capabilities of adults who live with the condition.

        Time Allotment

        One 50-minute class period plus homework

        Learning Objectives

        • Discuss the rights, freedoms and responsibilities associated with being an adult and develop a definition of adulthood that reflects the diverse experiences of “grown-ups”
        • Define Down syndrome, understand what the condition encompasses and challenge their own biases about the rights and capabilities of adults who live with it
        • Evaluate the resources available to youth and adults with Down syndrome in their local community and create a plan of action to raise awareness and improve access and opportunities

         

        Prep for Teachers

        In addition to printing the handouts and setting up the multi-media equipment, you may want to prepare the following resources in advance of the lesson:

        My Two Cents Discussion Exercise: Make the “pennies” for the My Two Cents Discussion Exercise detailed in Teacher Handout A. Use this strategy throughout the lesson to guide discussions and ensure that all students contribute to the classroom discussion in an active and inclusive way.

        Activity 1:

        Prepare one long sheet of butcher paper for the graffiti wall and three smaller sheets for the legal rights, freedoms and responsibilities responses.

         

        Activity 3:

        Write each of the following statements on chart paper and post them in the four corners of the room:

        A. Anita and Andrés should make their own decisions

        B. Anita and Andrés should make their own decisions with advice from family and counselors 

        C. Family and counselors should make decisions with Anita’s and Andrés’ input

        D. Family and counselors should make all the decisions for Anita and Andrés

        Vocabulary:

        The following definitions are from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary online

        • Chromosome: the part of a cell that contains the genes which control how an animal or plant grows and what it becomes

        • Cognitive: of, relating to or involving conscious mental activities (such as thinking, understanding, learning and remembering)

        • Documentary: a presentation (as a film or novel) expressing or dealing with factual events

        Tracking Vocabulary: Students will encounter new words and terms throughout this lesson. Have them track new vocabulary in their classroom journals, graphic organizers or in their class notebooks and incorporate these terms into the culminating activity.

        Notes about viewing and discussing sensitive material:

        This lesson and the accompanying videos address sensitive social issues and teachers should screen the videos and review all of the related materials prior to the lesson. When facilitating a discussion about Down syndrome and other developmental conditions, please be sensitive to the fact that views on the appropriate use of terms and labels may vary depending on the group, individual and/or context. It may be helpful to connect with a school social worker for resources specific to your school community’s needs and guidelines.

        Remind the class that this is a supportive environment and review your classroom’s tools for creating a safe space, including class agreements. These might include guidelines like “no name-calling,” “no interrupting,” “listen without judgment,” “use respectful language,” “share to your level of comfort” and “you have the right to pass.” And remind students that when they talk about groups of people, they should be careful to use the word “some,” not “all.”

        Consult the Teaching Tolerance resource Let's Talk! Discussing Race, Racism and Other Difficult Topics With Students for additional ideas and strategies for tackling challenging topics in the classroom.

        Supplies

        Film clips from The Grown-Ups, and equipment on which to view them 

        Computers with Internet access

        White butcher paper and chart paper, markers and sticky notes 

        Handouts:

        • Teacher Handout A: My Two Cents Discussion Exercise
        • Teacher Handout B: Understanding Down Syndrome
        • Student Handout: Conscious Adults

         

        Introductory Activity

        1. What does it mean to be “grown-up”? 

        In this activity, students will explore what adulthood means and the legal rights, freedoms and responsibilities we associate with being “grown-up.”

        Do Now: Create a “graffiti wall” by posting a large sheet of white butcher paper on the wall and distributing markers. Have students write their responses to the following question:

        • What words do we associate with adulthood? 

        Have the class stand in a semi-circle around the graffiti wall and silently review the responses collected using Teacher Handout A: My Two Cents Discussion Exercise. Discuss as a group, using the following prompts: 

        • What surprises you most when you look at the responses?
        • What are the most/least common responses? 
        • What patterns do we see?
        • What would we change or add to this list?

        Have students pair up and ask pairs to brainstorm responses to the following question:

        What are some legal rights, freedoms and responsibilities that we expect adults to have? Note: Pairs should list at least two responses in each of the three categories. For example:

        • Legal Rights: vote, open a personal checking account, buy alcohol, rent a car, enlist in the army, get married without parents’ permission
        • Freedoms: decide how you spend your time, choose where you want to live, make decisions about your future, decide when to go to bed, go to rated R movies 
        • Responsibilities: pay rent, take care of children/family, make a budget, cook and clean for yourself, pay taxes

        Have the pairs combine to make larger groups of four to six students and share their responses with each other.

        Post three large pieces of butcher paper on the wall, each titled as follows: Legal Rights; Freedoms; Responsibilities. Have the larger groups select two or three responses for each category and invite representatives to write their groups’ ideas on the appropriate papers.

        Discuss and have a volunteer record responses: 

        • What are the most/least common responses? 

        • What patterns do we see? 

        • What would we change or add to this list? 

        • How do we decide whether a person is a grown-up? (Age, behavior, responsibilities? For example: Some teens work to help support their families and are responsible for paying bills and taxes. Does that mean they are adults?)

        • Based on our feedback, how would you define a “grown-up”? 

        Keep the graffiti wall and responses posted for reference during the lesson.

        Learning Activities

        2. Understanding Down syndrome

        This activity begins by establishing/reinforcing tools for respectful listening and sharing in preparation for the discussions about Down syndrome. Through this activity, students will come to understand what Down syndrome is and discuss how being an adult with Down syndrome influences the rights, freedoms and responsibilities available to Anita in the film The Grown-Ups.

        Explain: Today we will learn about the lives of two adults living with Down syndrome, Anita and Andrés, as seen in the documentary film The Grown-Ups. This film looks at the everyday experiences of women and men in Chile who live with the condition and shows us their hopes, dreams and relationships and how they cope with the challenges that come with having Down syndrome.

        Facilitator note: This is a good time to review your classroom agreements and tools for supportive listening and sharing. The Fist-to-Five technique described in Let's Talk! Discussing Race, Racism and Other Difficult Topics With Students is a good tool for checking in with students about how they are feeling. (Let’s Talk, page 8)

        Discuss: Who has a friend, family member or neighbor who has Down syndrome? 

        If no hands go up, ask if anyone is familiar with the condition known as Down syndrome. Have a volunteer share what they know and/or follow with the summary in Teacher Handout B: Understanding Down Syndrome (Page 1).

        Explain: We will watch a clip from The Grown-Ups that shows, Anita, a student at a catering school in Chile, as she talks about her daily life and her dreams for the future.

        Play Clip 1. Ask students to take notes while watching the clip with a focus on the following question: 

        • What are the adult rights, freedoms and responsibilities that Anita talks about in the clip?

        Have students pair up and share their notes from the film, then reconvene for a class discussion using the My Two Cents Discussion Exercise:

        • How does Anita feel about her life? What makes her most happy? What makes her most frustrated?
        • Why does the support group call itself Conscious Adults? What does that mean? 
        • Anita wants to make her own decisions about her future. According to Anita, how do her parents feel about the choices she wants to make? What is her school counselor’s opinion?
        • What does Anita want? According to Anita, what is standing in her way?
        • How do the rights, freedoms and responsibilities that Anita talks about compare with our graffiti wall? What are the similarities and differences?

        3. Four corners 

        Through this activity, students will take a position on Anita and Andrés’ situation and then work with their classmates to challenge their own perceptions and biases as they gain more information. Students will also analyze the motivations and choices of the subjects in The Grown-Ups and understand how societal perceptions of adults with Down syndrome have influenced their lives. 

        Review: Anita is frustrated because she wants to make decisions for herself. She wants to take on new challenges, get married and have the rights and freedoms that other adults enjoy. Her family and school counselors have different opinions about the responsibilities adults with Down syndrome can take on. Based on what you have seen and heard so far, what is your opinion on Anita and Andrés’s right to make decisions about their life?

        If you haven’t done so yet, write each of the following statements on chart paper and post them in the four corners of the room:

        A. Anita and Andrés should make their own decisions

        B. Anita and Andrés should make their own decisions with advice from family and counselors 

        C. Family and counselors should make decisions with Anita’s and Andrés’ input

        D. Family and counselors should make all the decisions for Anita and Andrés

        Have volunteers read out each statement and ask each student to stand in the corner of the room that corresponds to their opinion. Students in each corner should briefly discuss their reasoning, then present their arguments to the class using evidence from the film and lesson. (Facilitator Note: This is a dynamic activity, so encourage students to move through each step at a quick pace. Prompt students who have not yet shared their “two cents” to take the lead as group spokespeople.)

        After each group has given its arguments, offer students the opportunity to shift to a different corner and share why they changed their opinions. 

        Introduce each of the three summaries about education and employment, living independently and building relationships from Teacher Handout B: Understanding Down Syndrome (Page 2). After reading each summary, offer students the opportunity to move to a different corner and quickly share how the new information changed their perspectives. When all the facts have been read and the students have selected their corners, have them write their names under their respective opinions. 

        Reconvene the class and distribute Student Handout A: Conscious Adults (Page 1). Assign each student one of the following subjects from the film to focus on. Students can be assigned subjects based on the “corners” they chose (for example: students who chose corner “A” will focus on subject “A”). If there are too many or too few students in a particular group, adjust the subject assignments as needed. Subjects can also be assigned by having the class count off from A to D.

        A. Andrés’ family

        B. Anita’s mother

        C. Catering school staff

        D. Andrés and Anita

        Explain then play Clip 2

        In this clip, Anita and her boyfriend, Andrés, are sharing their life goals with their families and the staff at their school. Use Student Handout A: Conscious Adult to record notes and quotes about your subject(s) while watching the film

        After screening the clip, organize the class into small groups with at least one student representing each subject. Members of each group should share their notes from the film, then work together to respond to the questions in Student Handout A: Conscious Adults (Page 2). Each student should complete their own worksheet to use for assessment or reference later. Have the groups share their responses with the class using the My Two Cents Discussion Exercise. 

        Following the discussion, ask the class to review their responses to the four corners activity one last time. Invite students who have changed their opinions to move their names to the chart paper in the appropriate corner and share why they changed their minds. Ask students who did not change their mind to share how the film clip and discussion reinforced their opinions. (Facilitator note: Remind students that this is the last opportunity to share their “two cents.”)

        Culminating Activity

        4. Reflection

        Discuss: Based on what we have learned, what changes should we make to our definition of “grown-ups” (from Activity 1), so it reflects the diverse experiences and abilities of adults, including people living with Down syndrome?

        HOMEWORK

        Select one activity from the following options:

        Essay: Balancing Rights and Abilities 

        As we saw in The Grown-Ups, every adult with Down syndrome is unique, and it can be challenging to confront the biases and social and physical limitations that come with the condition. It can also be difficult for families and caregivers to understand which freedoms and responsibilities are appropriate for an adult with Down syndrome and give the right kind of support. 

        With this in mind, have students write essays in response to the film using the following questions as prompts:

        • How did you feel about the way Andrés and Anita’s story ended?

        • In your opinion, what would have been the best possible outcome for everyone involved? 

        • What role, if any, should Anita and Andrés play in the decision-making process about their future? Why?

        • How could the couple, their families and the school counselors have worked together to make the best outcome possible? 

        Research Project: Understanding and Supporting the Down Syndrome Community 

        The rights and opportunities for people with Down syndrome vary in different countries and even in different states. Have students work in small groups to research policies and resources for people in the United States with Down syndrome with a focus on their local area. Students should:

        • Research local and national organizations that provide information about Down syndrome

        • Identify and reach out to programs for youth and adults with Down syndrome in their own community

        • Connect and collaborate with members of their school or local area who are living with Down syndrome to learn how to be more effective allies for the community

        • Understand which resources and programs are unavailable, what support is needed and how they can help

        Have students use their research to develop an education and awareness strategy to challenge the myths and stigmas surrounding Down syndrome and signal-boost the voices of people living with the condition. Their projects can include poster campaigns, multi-media presentations and information webpages on the school website. Students can also coordinate the presentation of their projects to coincide with World Down Syndrome Day on March 21. Direct students to the organizations listed in the Resources section below to start their research process.

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