Subject Areas:
Secondary American History, Civics, Sociology, and Communication Arts

Assessment Suggestions
Extension Activities

National Standards

Student Handouts


Students will participate in a class discussion and conduct independent research about the lifeskills Ralph Bunche developed because of the influences of others, his life experiences, and the obstacles he had to overcome as a youth. They will then construct a piece of writing, art, or a presentation that illustrates what they have learned about Bunche.

Students will view "Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey". In addition, they should view the companion website, particularly the section titled "Early Influences and Education, the Making of a Leader". This section includes video clips featuring Jane Taylor telling stories of Bunche's early life and providing information about important people in his life. The timeline section of the site should also be referenced. Finally, students can reference the websites below for additional information about Bunche's childhood and educational experiences.

Nobel E-Museum
The Nobel Museum's biography of Bunche

Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
Biography of Bunche written for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation site

Howard University Ralph Bunche International Affairs Center
Biography from Howard University Ralph J. Bunche International Affairs Center

Encarta Online
Encarta Encyclopedia article on Bunche

In addition to the film, the companion website, and the internet sites mentioned above, the following books and articles can provide more specific information about Ralph Bunche's childhood experiences.

Ralph J. Bunche: Fighter for Peace, by J. Alvin Kugelmass

Ralph Bunche: A Most Reluctant Hero, by Jim Haskins

Ralph Bunche: Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, by Anne Schraff

Ralph Bunche: An American Life by Brian Urquhart

"My Most Unforgettable Character" by Ralph Bunche
(an article that appeared in Readers Digest Sept. 1969 p. 45)

"What America Means to Me" by Ralph Bunche (an article that appeared in American Magazine 1950.)


The teacher should pose a rhetorical question to get students thinking about the anticipation guide activity. He/she might ask students something like "Is there ever a time when a problem has only one right or wrong answer?" or "Have you ever been in a situation when you can see how two opposite answers could apply to the same question?" Once students have been given a few moments to think about the question, the teacher should distribute the anticipation guides. The teacher should review the directions and then give students 7-10 minutes to complete the activity.

2. The teacher should facilitate a class discussion about the anticipation guide. Students should be asked to share how they answered various questions and why then answered the way they did. The teacher should encourage students to give specific examples to explain the reasons for their answers.

3. Once the discussion has reached a closing point, the teacher explain that the lesson will focus on learning more about a person who embodies the issues they have been discussing in the anticipation guide. If time permits, the class could brainstorm a list of people they feel are representative of the issues.

4. Students will probably know very little about Ralph Bunche, but they will be interested to learn more once you have made the introduction above or one similar to it.

5. Hand out the viewing guide for students to use as they watch the film. Be sure to go over the directions before students begin viewing. It would be appropriate to stop the film at appropriate times to answer questions and give students time to record their ideas.

6. Once students have seen the film and completed the viewing guide, have them work in small groups or facilitate a large group discussion about their various answers to the questions. Encourage them to be specific when citing their examples from the film.

7. Once this discussion is complete, gather the class together and redirect their focus to Ralph Bunche and the skills he developed as a youth that helped him be a success in his adult life. Stress the idea that there were many people and events that influenced him. Using what was presented in the film, additional resources such as those listed above, and the companion website, present students with basic information about Bunche's family life, his educational experiences in elementary and high school, and the hardships he and his family faced throughout his formative years. This could be done through discussion, distribution of copies of the various articles about Bunche from the websites, or individual student viewing of these materials.

8. Students will then conduct independent research about Bunche using internet and library research. Their focus should be to answer the questions on the research worksheet. Students should be careful to record accurate, specific information in their answers.

9. Once students have completed their research, they will need to choose a format for presenting what they learned about Bunche. Give students the activity options sheet for choosing a project that best suits their interest and abilities.

Assessment Suggestions:

1. After students have completed their project and presented it to the class, have them do a self-evaluation of their work as it compares to others in the class. Students could work as a group to develop the guidelines for this prior to beginning their projects. This will encourage them to do high quality work since they know others will see it and because they will have to compare their work to that of their classmates.

2. Use the process mentioned above to create a peer evaluation form that students will use to rank one another's presentations. Then, as each student presents his/her work, have classmates evaluate its content.

3. Create a scoring guide that could be used with each of the projects on the activity options list. Using your expectations of your students, develop criteria for acceptable and unacceptable presentations. In addition, credit could be awarded for completion of various activity/research sheets and participation in class discussions that led up to the development of the projects.

Extension Activities:

Once students have completed their projects and presented to the class, have them sponsor a Ralph Bunche awareness activity. This could be done in conjunction with Black History Month, the anniversary of the founding of the U.N., Bunche's birthday, etc. Students could create advertising materials to be used in the school and community, they could invite members of local groups that may be interested in learning more about Bunche or recognizing his accomplishments. Students could also look for a guest speaker(s) to highlight their program by talking about Ralph Bunche and all he stood for. Finally, the students themselves would be in charge of developing displays that include their projects and a program for the event. Parents, school board members, and school district patrons could be invited to attend the event as well.

National Standards:

Behavioral Studies Standard and Benchmarks
Standard 1: Understands that group and cultural influences contribute to human development, identity, and behavior

Level 4 (Grade 9-12)
7. Understands that family, gender, ethnicity, nationality,
institutional affiliations, socioeconomic status, and other group and cultural influences contribute to the shapingof a person's identity

Historical Understanding Standard and Benchmarks
Standard 2: Understands the historical perspective

Level 4 (Grade 9-12)
1. Analyzes the values held by specific people who influenced history and
the role their values played in influencing history

Language Arts Standard and Benchmarks: Viewing
Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media

Level 4 (Grade 9-12)
1. Uses a range of strategies to interpret visual media (e.g., draws conclusions, makes generalizations, synthesizes materials viewed, refers to images or information in visual media to support point of view deconstructs media to determine the main idea)

2. Uses a variety of criteria (e.g., clarity, accuracy, effectiveness, bias, relevance of facts) to evaluate informational media (e.g., web sites, documentaries, news programs)

Language Arts Standard and Benchmarks: Listening and Speaking
Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes

Level 4 (Grade 9-12)
2. Asks questions as a way to broaden and enrich classroom discussions

5. Makes formal presentations to the class (e.g., includes definitions for clarity; supports main ideas using anecdotes, examples, statistics, analogies, and other evidence; uses visual aids or technology, such as transparencies, slides, electronic media; cites information sources)

6. Makes multimedia presentations using text, images, and sound (e.g., selects the appropriate medium, such as television broadcast, videos, web pages, films, newspapers, magazines, CD-ROMS, Internet, computer-media-generated images; edits and monitors for quality; organizes, writes, and designs media

Language Arts Standard and Benchmarks: Writing
Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes

Level 4 (Grade 9-12)
2. Uses a variety of print and electronic sources to gather information for research topics (e.g., news sources such as magazines, radio, television, newspapers; government publications; microfiche; telephone information services; databases; field studies; speeches; technical documents; periodicals; Internet)


Student Handouts
Click here to download these Documents as a PDF file (44K)            

The Making of a Leader: Activity Options

Name:__________________________________     Date:_______________________

Directions: You have participated in class discussions, viewed the film "Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey", and conducted your own research to learn about Bunche. It is now time to share what you have learned about him. Choose one project from the list below and complete it. Be prepared to share and explain your work to others.


Option 1: poetry/song

Using all you have learned about Ralph Bunche, write a poem or song that tells the story of his childhood. Be sure to include the obstacles he had to overcome, the influences of his family, the racism Bunche experienced, and the way he met challenges as a positive rather than negative experience.

Your poem/song should be at minimum of 30 lines. You may choose any format for your poetry or song (i.e. It does not have to rhyme, it may or may not include a chorus, etc.)

Prepare your play/song, practice it, and perform it for the class.


Option 2: art

Create a piece of artwork that if representative of Bunche's childhood. This could be a collage, painting, drawing, sculpture, etc. The piece must depict/be representative of Bunche's childhood, people who influenced him, events that impacted him, and challenges that he met successfully.

Prepare your artwork, practice how you will describe it to others, and share it with the class.

Option 3: writing

Ralph Bunche seized the opportunities that were presented to him and used racist attitudes and personal challenges as motivation to be a success. Think about your own life and some of the hardships and struggles you have had to endure or will endure as you

get older. Write an essay discussing how you can/could have adapted an attitude similar to Bunche's to help you overcome problems and achieve your goals. Give specific examples from your life and discuss how you think Bunche would have handled similar situations. Finally, address the idea that by developing the whole person (i.e. using both lifeskills and education) one is more likely to achieve success and why this is true.

Prepare your essay, practice reading it, and share it with the class.

Option 4: technology

Using technology such as Microsoft Power Point or another multimedia format, create a presentation about the life of Ralph Bunche from birth through his college graduation. Include pictures, audio clips, video clips, and text to tell his story. Think of this project as a "mini movie". When you run it, others should be able to view it independently and get a complete picture of Ralph Bunche as he was during the specified time frame. Topics to address would include:

- Family Life
- Influential People
- Struggles and Hardships
- Racism
- Education
- Achievements

Prepare your presentation, set all timers and effects, run a practice show, and present your work to the class.

Option 5: Speaking

Go back to the Anticipation Guide and look over the questions you responded to before seeing the film "Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey". Think about how the statements on the guide relate to Ralph Bunche. Think of examples that illustrate each idea on the guide (i.e. If Bunche had "minded his own business" and not been involved in mediating crises throughout the world, how would that have possibly changed history?). Once you have recorded some ideas and examples, create a persuasive speech to share with your classmates. The speech could focus on the importance of students learning about Ralph Bunche and his life or it could focus on the forgotten contributions of Bunche and how he should be remembered more historically.

Prepare your speech, practice it, and perform it for the class.

Option 6: Project of your choice

Write a specific idea in the space below and see your teacher for approval before beginning your work.

The Making of a Leader: Viewing Guide

Name:__________________________________     Date:______________________

Directions: Read the questions listed below carefully so you know what to look for while watching the video. As you view "Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey", make note of specific examples, ideas, and facts that address each question. You will reference these in a later part of the lesson, so record details accurately and completely.

1. What were some of the hardships and challenges Bunche faced during his childhood and teen years?






2. Bunche was heavily influenced as a child by the people around him. Give some examples of people who influenced Bunche and how they influenced him.






3. Bunche was the victim of racism on more than one occasion. How did these experiences affect him in your opinion? Give examples and details from the film to support your opinion.






4. Give several examples of times when Bunche's actions spoke louder than his words.






5. Bunche is an excellent example of a person who had highly developed lifeskills. For each of the skills listed below, give an example from the film to illustrate it.




Problem Solving:








The Making of a Leader: Research Worksheet

Name:___________________________________     Date:________________________

Directions: Using library and internet resources, answer the questions below in as much detail as you can. Be sure to record facts accurately and supply detailed answers.

1. Ralph Bunche grew up in three very different cities. Describe the type of neighborhood and people Bunche was exposed to in these various neighborhoods.



Los Angeles:

2. Describe the role Bunche's grandmother played in shaping his personality and values. Give specific examples, quotations, and descriptions of incidents.






3. In what ways was Bunche directly affected by racism? Find at least 3 specific examples of these in your research. Describe the incidents in detail.






4. The following comments were made to Bunche by his family members.
How do you think each of these people shaped Bunche as a person?

Bunche's mother said, "My boy, don't ever let anything take away your hope and faith and dreams."

Bunche's grandmother said, " Our family is as fine as any on earth. We are poor in money, all right, but we're all rich in character, spirit, and decency and we believe in God. That's a lot more important than money–or color."






Directions: Consider the second part of the research to be a sort of "scavenger hunt". Find information about the questions below. Again, be as specific as possible with your answers.

5. What were some of the various jobs Bunche had as a youth to help support himself and his family?




6. What was the precious memento that Bunche's father gave to him as a child? Why do you think Bunche cherished it so?




7. Which teacher did Bunche say had the most effect on him growing up. Why?


The Making of a Leader: Anticipation Guide

Name:_________________________________     Date:_________________________

Read each statement below carefully. Place an X in either the Agree or Disagree column. You must choose one column or the other. Then write a short explanation for why you chose the answer you did in the Reason box. Be prepared to share your answers and ideas with the class.

Statement Agree Disagree Reason

People who are successful are usually those who grow up with more economic advantages.


Lifeskills such as courage and perseverance are as important as educational skills like reading and writing.


How a person acts has more impact on others than what he/she says.


A person who tries to mediate a dispute between others is only asking for trouble and should mind their own business.


Enduring hardships helps to build character.



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