homeprevious reportswatch onlineusteacher centernewsletteremail FRONTLINEFRONTLINE (home)
Teacher Center
teachers guide

The Lost Children of Rockdale County

about the program

FRONTLINE's Peabody Award-winning documentary "The Lost Children of Rockdale County" deals with a controversial but important subject matter: affluent suburban teens struggling not only with a rare syphilis outbreak, but also loneliness, disaffection, sexual promiscuity, and substance abuse.

Although "Lost Children" begins with an enquiry into how and why the syphilis outbreak happened, the documentary becomes in the end a wider, deeper examination of the world of teenagers and their relationships with their parents and each other. In surprising frank interviews, a cross-section of Rockdale teens describe the new rules of dating and the sexual promiscuity that stems from a yearning to have friends and fit in. They also confess their desire for attention--and even discipline--from their parents, many of whom admit on camera to being too tired, too busy, or just plain scared to connect with their children. The result is a sensitive, honest--and at times shocking--portrait of the world in which America's teens are coming of age.

Due to the sensitive nature of this material, teachers are encouraged to preview the program and Web site content before introducing it to students.

The classroom materials provided on this site are intended for grades 9-12 and are designed to stimulate thinking about teen sexuality, parent-teen relationships, and teenagers' place in the community. Each lesson plan includes standards-based classroom activities and suggests particular segments from the video that support the instructional objectives of the lesson. Although every effort has been made to screen the recommended video segments and related online content for classroom appropriateness, please use your professional judgment about which topics and material will be most suitable for use in your classroom.

LESSON 1: Debating the Issues of Rockdale County.

This lesson plan provides guidelines for taking a closer look at some of these issues presented in "Lost Children" and expressing viewpoints via a debate format. Students will:

  • Interpret information from the video "Lost Children" through a series of written questions and answers, and group discussion.
  • Evaluate the parameters of parental responsibility in the lives of teenagers.
  • Create formal debates around the issues.

LESSON 2: Good Attention vs. Bad Attention

This lesson plan explores the differences between good and bad attention and helps students develop strategies to focus on good attention-getting behaviors. Students will:

  • Interpret information from the "Lost Children" through a series of written questions and answers.
  • Distinguish between good attention and bad attention.
  • Analyze and evaluate the behaviors which result in good or bad attention.
  • Create a graphic representation illustrating good and bad attention and the behaviors associated with each.

LESSON 3: Epidemic!

This lesson begins with a simulation of just how quickly an infectious disease can spread through a population, examines the spread of a sexually transmitted disease documented in "Lost Children," and ends with a survey of the role of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Students will:

  • Participate in a simulated spread of an infectious disease.
  • Analyze the results of the simulation to determine the origin of the "disease."
  • Interpret information from the video "Lost Children" through a series of written questions and answers.
  • Research and interpret information about the CDC from its Web site.

LESSON 4: Health Outreach--Creating Research-based Pamphlets on STDs

STDs present a real threat to sexually-active individuals. This lesson plan explores a specific syphilis outbreak investigated in "Lost Children" and directs students to research the disease and create their own informational pamphlets. Students will:

  • Interpret information from the video "Lost Children" through a series of written questions and answers.
  • Research the causes, symptoms, and cures of a sexually-transmitted disease.
  • Create a pamphlet to display their research findings.

PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

You can dowload Adobe Acrobat reader here.


This guide is written by Victoria Babcock with input from the "The Lost Children of Rockdale County" teacher's guide advisory panel. Advisors include Lynne Whitt, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the National Center for Health Education; Becky Smith, executive director of the American Association of Health Education; Judy Terando, health and physical education teacher at LaSalle-Peru High School, Illinois; and Jessica Smith of FRONTLINE.

FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS Viewers. National corporate funding provided by EarthLink®.

Funding for this teacher's guide provided by Metropolitan Life Foundation
 Metropolitan Life Foundation

home » previous reports » watch online » about us » teacher center » newsletter » email FRONTLINE
privacy policy » wgbh » pbsi

web site copyright WGBH educational foundation
some photos copyright ©2001 joel page