What are the teaching modules?
The teaching modules are a component of Picturing Animals in National Geographic, a National Science Foundation-funded research project exploring photographic representations of non-human animals in National Geographic between 1888 and the present. Like the project’s purpose, the modules’ purpose is to help students better understand societies’ historical and contemporary attitudes toward animals and the interrelationships between these attitudes and animal photographs. To promote this understanding, the modules simulate the project by drawing from a collection of 118 National Geographic animal photographs, one from each year for the past 118 years.
Although the specific questions they address vary, the modules address the following general Essential Questions:
- What is the relationship between photographs of animals and the attitudes toward animals of their creators?
- What is the relationship between photographs of animals and the attitudes toward animals of their viewers?
- How do the relationships between photographs of animals and individuals’ attitudes toward animals apply at other scales as well as to other forms of representation and types of attitude?
- How can sociologists, historians, and other researchers use an understanding of the interrelationship between representations and attitudes to create new knowledge?
- To what extent do individuals, including students and other youth, actively participate in these interrelationships?
By addressing these general questions, the modules promote the following general Enduring Understandings:
- Photographs of animals reflect the attitudes toward animals of their creators.
- Photographs of animals affect the attitudes toward animals of their viewers.
- The interrelationship between photographs of animals and individuals’ attitudes toward animals generalizes to the societal scale as well as to other forms of representation and types of attitude.
- Sociologists, historians, and other researchers can use representations to make predictions about societies’ attitudes as well as their similarities to and differences from other societies’ attitudes and their trends and changes across time.
- Individuals, including students and other youth, actively participate in the interrelationship between representations and attitudes as both creators and viewers of representations and holders of attitudes.
As evidence of these understandings, students complete Assessments such as:
- Quizzes on vocabulary related to animals, representations, and attitudes.
- Group presentations on analyses of photographs of animals.
- Class discussions about attitudes toward animals.
- Written reflections about representations and attitudes.
- Individual projects in which students find and analyze representations as well as create and reflect on their own representations.
In preparation for these assessments, students complete Activities such as:
- Lectures on vocabulary related to animals, representations, and attitudes.
- Activities about analyzing animal photographs.
- Presentations on attitudes toward animals.
- Discussions about representations and attitudes.
- Reflections in which students consider how individuals actively participate in the interrelationship between representations and attitudes.
How do I use the teaching modules?
The modules are designed as two-weeklong units appropriate for high school students in social science courses. However, they are flexible enough that teachers can lengthen or shorten them while still addressing the same questions and contributing to the same understandings. Teachers can also combine the modules into longer units or break them into shorter units or single lessons.
Each module falls into one of four thematic categories: Animal-Human Relationships, Domestic Animals, Liminal Animals, and Wild Animals. Within each category, one module focuses on sociology. Sociology-focused modules use photographs from 1988 and after, and they address current social issues related to attitudes toward animals. A second module focuses on history. History-focused modules use photographs from before 1988, and they address historical trends and changes in attitudes toward animals. In addition to these two core modules, each category includes several shorter modules contributed by animal studies scholars researching a wide variety of topics.
In addition to the modules, teachers can take advantage of the website’s interactive elements: the Forum and the Personal Meaning Map. In the Forum, students can comment on the modules, post their work, and interact with other students from around the world. With the Personal Meaning Map, students can visualize the effect of animal photographs on their own attitudes toward animals while helping the research team with another component of the project.
How can I help with the teaching modules?
We would greatly appreciate your help! If you are interested in providing feedback on the modules or contributing your own lesson or unit plans based on the National Geographic animal photographs, please email Stephen Vrla, the graduate research assistant working on the modules and project.