Abstract 7- Volume 5, Number 2, Summer 2010

Social Studies Research and Practice

Volume 5, Number 2, Summer 2010



Using “When the Levees Broke/Teaching the Levees” to Teach Middle School Students About Empathy and Social Justice

Karen Thomas-Brown
University of Michigan, Dearborn


This action research study reports on an important unit of study having evidence of success. The paper discusses how students in a social studies classroom setting may be encouraged to develop and display empathy for individuals who are impacted by hurricane disasters. It uses aspects of the documentary “When the Levees Broke” in collaboration with the “Teaching the Levees Module” and several technology based classroom resources. The findings indicate that as students contextualized the impact of Hurricane Katrina and similar natural disasters on human populations they begin to develop and display empathy. The students who were involved in this investigation also were able to apply principles of social justice which facilitated reflective thinking as they used hindsight to analyze and discuss the context of this natural disaster.

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About the Author(s)…

Karen Thomas-Brown, Assistant Professor of Multicultural Education and Social Studies at the University of Michigan, Dearborn, School of Edu-cation. Her research interests include teaching for geographic literacy and the impact of gender issues in the teaching and learning of geography. She can be contacted at karentb@umd.umich.edu.

Acknowledgment: Nabila Ikram, an undergraduate student in the School of Education at the University of Michigan, Dearborn provided invaluable assistance in the implementation of the curriculum in after school geography club.

Citation for this Article: Thomas-Brown, K. (2010). Using “When the Levees Broke/Teaching the Levees” to teach middle school students about empathy and social justice. Social Studies Research & Practice, 5(2), 76-90. Retrieved from http://www.socstrp.org/issues/PDF/5.2.7.pdf.