Through a variety of activities, “Surviving the Struggle” will allow students to examine the lives of three young people who stood against tremendous odds during much of their lifetime. The obstacles which they faced could easily have defeated the spirit of those much older and seemingly better equipped to cope. In their own way, each of these young people managed to survive and triumph. These three individuals whom I have chosen are: Anne Frank, Ruby Bridges, and Ryan White. The thread of each life will come from books we will read together: The Diary of Anne Frank, The Story of Ruby Bridges, and Ryan White: My Own Story. There are films that also present the basic facts of each individual’s life. The use of these films will do much to enhance the written material. Together, the book and film will provide students with their initial picture of each survivor’s life.
Through reading, both individually and as a class, students will study the lives these young people lived. They will research background information on the Holocaust, the Civil Rights Movement, especially school integration in the South, and facts concerning the disease AIDS. Students will see Anne, Ruby, and Ryan as unique individuals, but also as people who shared a great deal in common. While they all withstood the assault of prejudice and discrimination, they all were sustained by an inner strength fostered in varying ways and forms by a combination of family, community, and religious support. How these factors varied and how they were alike will be important points to consider. The fact that these survivors are, at least, somewhat close to fourth graders in age will make it initially easier for students to relate to some, though not all, of their situations and feelings.