Phenomenon Project Based Learning Series: Protests, Social Movements, Justice and Civil Rights

Phenomenon Based Learning (PhBL) is a multi-disciplinary form of learning that approaches a topic (phenomenon) initially from a bird's eye view. PhBL was developed as a means to address the growing need for learning experiences which encounter and solve real-world issues while being aligned to 21st century skills. The topic or concept is deconstructed into distinct yet interdependent aspects. The learning then spirals full circle to encompass the topic or concept holistically.

PhBL SPOTLIGHT: Social Movements

We are SO thrilled to share this PhBL concept that emerged from a design team collaboration here in Washington State as we support the opening of Cascade Charter School. Our design team developed multiple concepts for PhBL experiences before involving students and community members in selecting the most relevant concepts and contributing to their continued development for what will become the 9th grade PhBL curriculum.

We hope these concepts will seed some ideas with you!

Phenomenon: Protests/Social Movements/Justice/Civil Rights

Guiding Question(s):

What is justice?

What similarities/differences do we see between movements?

How do social movements shape our world?

How do we effectively protest?

Is violence in the pursuit of justice ever justified?

How do we make our voices heard?

What injustices are in the world/community today?

Context Anchors:

Black Lives Matter

LGBTQ rights

Emma Gonzalez speech

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Ted Talk

School to prison pipeline aligned w/ police & law discrimination

Amnesty International

“The Hate U Give”

Cesar Chavez-food strike

Frederick Douglas & John Brown (patriot or terrorist?)

Riot studies & mapping of riots

Malcom X


Robert F. Williams

“Ballot or Bullet” speech

“Negroes with guns”

“Letter From Birmingham Jail”

Documentaries/Video alignment

“When They See Us”


Standing Rock, treaty rights, civil rights on reservations,

This American Life

Serial (podcast)

Learn about other types of lobbying


Explain how to protest effectively

Creation of effective posters/documents for protest

Create criteria of successful protests and used to analyze famous movements

Reading/analyzing book excerpts “We Broke The Law, Now What?”

Student created documentary featuring social movement of their choice

Essay/paper on a “true patriot”

Design campaign for a social movement

Participation in a march/protest

Lincoln Douglas style debates on resolution


Persuasive writing




Social Studies/History


Adult World Connections:

Civil Rights organizations (NW Network, HRC, ACLU, Trevor Project)

Judges, lawyers

Partner w/ Harlem Children’s Zone

African American History Museum