PBS TeacherSource

Interactive Teacher
Chipping off the Old Block

Viewing Guide Careers and Vocational Education Activities Health Activities
Mathematics Activities Resource Links Classroom Resources


Before Viewing

(For information on ordering a video copy of the Livelyhood "Chipping Off the Old Block" contact The Working Group at 510-268-WORK or email info@livelyhood.org)

Use these tips to prepare your students to view the program thoughtfully:

1. Read the summary of the show and explore the "Chipping Off the Old Block" Web site to familiarize yourself with its contents.

2. Ask these questions to begin a discussion of attitudes toward work and how these attitudes are shaped:

• What does work ethic mean?

• Who do you know who has a strong work ethic? Why do you think so?

• Where do you think people who have a strong work ethic get it from?

• Would you say that Americans in general have a strong work ethic? Why or why not?

3. Inform students that as they view the program, they will learn about the idea of work ethic. You might suggest to students that they keep these questions in mind as they view the episode:

• What attitudes do Americans have toward work today?

• How does an individual's attitude toward work shape his or her life?

• What people or factors are likely to influence a person's attitude toward work?


While Viewing

"Chipping Off the Old Block" presents the following segments:


Will Durst prepares to unwrap the American work ethic. He asks: "Where do we get it? How do we pass it on?"

Segment 1

Portola Valley, CA - Ten-year-old Catherine Pooley, a Girl Scout with record breaking cookie sales, tells viewers how thinking outside the box helped her reach a 1000-box goal. In addition to making 30+ phone calls every evening, Pooley convincingly pitched her marketing strategy to Jamis MacNiven of Buck's Cafe, who bought big and created the now legendary "Catherine Pooley Arm-Twisting Sundae!"

Segment 2

Austin, TX - Viewers meet two twenty-somethings, Cyrus Mistry and Danielle Rios, who regularly clock 16-hour workdays for Austin-based Trilogy, a major provider of customized software to businesses. At Trilogy, the business plan is as much about fun as it is about work. Workplace friendships are the norm, and midnight bowling sessions are scheduled on the company calendar.

Segment 3

Philadelphia, PA - A family crisis made Brad Oberwager reevaluate his definition of professional success. When his sister Jane was diagnosed with cancer and he learned that her treatment required more than 15 vitamin supplements, he began mixing special compounds of vitamins to help her. Soon he was inspired to do the same for others. With his family's backing, Brad created Vitabiz, a company that specializes in creating customized vitamins.

Segment 4

Milwaukee, WI - Will Durst and his retired dad reminisce about their hundreds of jobs and what still gets them up in the morning. During one period in his life, Will's father worked four jobs at once. Will may not be a nine-to-fiver, but his workday is never ending. It sometimes starts with 7 a.m. radio shows, and ends with 3 a.m. newspaper column writing. Will then reflects on a past summer foundry job, pouring iron-one of the country's most dangerous occupations.

Segment 5

Detroit, MI - Viewers meet Dennis Dowdell, Jr., a remarkable mentor. When he was hired in 1991 as corporate vice-president of Henry Ford Health System, Dowdell became one of just a handful of high ranking African American executives in the United States. Dennis is now helping other African Americans pave their road to success: he mentors inner city teens, poets with day jobs, and corporate newcomers.

Segment 6

Nashville, TN and New York, NY - Will begins his building trade adventures in Nashville with Dawn White, a third-year apprentice who used a local union training program to turn her life around and is close to fulfilling a lifelong dream to become an engineer. Moving on to the Big Apple, Will takes a ride up one of Manhattan's most famous office towers. With a crew of apprentice stone masons and second-generation bricklayer Dennis Holloway, Will helps lay the restored cornerstone on the outside of the 72nd floor of the Empire State Building.

Segment 7

Newport, KY - Viewers dine with Louise Arnett, a senior records manager for Federated Department Stores, and Betty Cooley, a retired restaurant owner. Louise donates time to the national Kids' Café program that feeds more than 100 hungry children every week in Newport. Betty is the Newport Kids' Café executive chef and volunteer coordinator.



Pause once or twice while viewing to have students reflect on what they've seen. Ask:

• What examples of the American work ethic has the program shown so far?

• What goals have the people profiled set for themselves? How successful have they been in achieving these goals?

• How have other people helped them pursue their goals? How have organizations been helpful?

Ask whether students are confused about anything they've seen. Offer them the opportunity to visit the Livelyhood "Chipping Off the Old Block" Web site and explore further after watching the program.

After Viewing

A variety of resources are available for linking the content of the show to particular curriculum areas, and helping students apply the content to real-world situations relevant to their own lives.

1. Follow-up Questions. These encourage students to analyze and think critically about the situations and issues presented in the show.

You might begin by having students answer the questions offered as examples:

• What attitudes do Americans have toward work today?

• How does an individual's attitude toward work shape his or her life?

• What people or factors are likely to influence a person's attitude toward work?

Continue by asking questions that will lead students to relate the content of the program to their own lives:

• Which of these stories could have been filmed in our area? Explain.

• This show profiled a number of individuals. Of the people shown, whom do you admire? Why?

• Are there any lessons to be learned from these people's stories? If so, what are they?

To give students opportunities to explore these issues actively and creatively, assign one or more of the cross-curricular activities.

2. Cross-Curricular Activities.These offer a variety of projects for individual students or small groups that extend concepts presented in "Chipping Off the Old Block." Some of these activities utilize other features of the Livelyhood Web site. All activities are appropriate for students in grades 9-12. Some are suitable for younger students as well; others are appropriate for adult students. Teachers may want to visit the LivelyKids! page and have students read youth entries and participate in the "My Mom, My Dad" work ethic essay contest on or offline. Students are also free to post stories about their own work aspirations.