PBS Premiere: Aug. 18, 2009Check the broadcast schedule »

Lesson Plan: Beauty Ideals and Body Image

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This lesson plan is designed to be used with the film 34x25x36, part of the POV Shorts Program.

POV documentaries can be recorded off-the-air and used for educational purposes for up to one year from their initial broadcast. In addition, POV offers a lending library of DVDs and VHS tapes that you can borrow any time during the school year -- FOR FREE! Get started by joining our Community Network.

Please visit our Film Library at to find other films suitable for classroom use.

Watch 34x25x36 online from Aug. 19, 2009 to Sept. 19, 2009.

By the end of this lesson, students will:

  • Analyze how beauty ideals represented in mannequins and advertisements are designed to sell products.
  • Explain how poor body image can lead to unhealthy behaviors.
  • Design advertisements that send healthy messages about body image.

SUBJECTS: Current events, language arts, health


LENGTH OF FILM: Approximately 7 minutes

Note: This film repeatedly shows nude female mannequin forms. Please preview before classroom use.

  • Begin by watching the film. Focus student viewing and ask students to take notes on how the image of beauty represented by these mannequins is determined.
  • Ask students whether or not they agree that the mannequins shown in the film represent the ideal woman's body. Why or why not? How might the ideal of beauty represented by the mannequins get people to make purchases?
  • Show students examples of recent advertisements from magazines, television and/or the Internet and ask them to identify the messages about body image that these advertisements are sending. Possible messages might include that you have to have the ideal body type in order to have fun or be considered attractive or that your value to society is determined by how you look. Again, how might the ideals of beauty represented in these advertisements help sell products?
  • Ask students to read and discuss the fact sheet "Media's Effect on Girls: Body Image and Gender Identity" from the National Institute on Media and the Family. Ask students to discuss whether they ever feel unhappy with their bodies. Why or why not? Discuss how a poor body image could lead to unhealthy behaviors.
  • Have students create advertisements that send healthy messages about body image.


Media Literacy Clearinghouse: Body Image Magazine Covers
The Media Literacy Clearinghouse offers examples of magazine covers concerned with female body representation.

National Institute on Media and the Family: Media's Effect on Girls: Body Image and Gender Identity
This fact sheet provides a summary of studies conducted on body image and gender identity for both boys and girls..

Patina V
The website for the mannequin factory featured in the film provides images of the various lines of mannequins and measurements for some of them.

These standards are drawn from "Content Knowledge," a compilation of content standards and benchmarks for K-12 curriculum by McRel (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning).


Standard 2: Knows environmental and external factors that affect individual and community health.

Language Arts

Standard 10: Understands the characteristics and components of the media.

Visual Arts

Standard 4: Understands the visual arts in relation to history and cultures.