Generation Citizen Lessons

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Researching and Evaluating Websites

Why is it critical to conduct thorough research before taking action?
Why is important to look at differing viewpoints on an issue before taking action?

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to:
  • Differentiate between reliable and unreliable sources
  • Collect research from reliable sources to use in the research of their appropriate objective and focus issue
  • Distinguish between different types of sources (i.e., first-hand interviews, articles, websites, studies, etc.) and describe the importance of having varied sources

Do Now:
  • Define the words "source," "bias," and "reliable."
  • Why is it important for resources to be reliable?
Record the answers on page 37 of your Generation Citizen workbooks.

Use of the internet opens up a virtually limitless amount of research and resource opportunity. It also creates a number of potential pitfalls, most notably the possible distractions and misinformation available on the web.

Activity 1 - Exploring Two Popular Websites
  • Look at the following two websites.

Website #1

Website #2

Activity 2 - Thinking Critically about Websites
When you have looked through these websites answer the following questions on page 37 of your Generation Citizen workbooks.
    • What characteristics make these websites so convincing?
    • What evidence is available to prove that these websites are hoax sites?
    • How can we determine if sources on the internet are reliable or not?
    • Which types of sources are reliable and in which circumstances?
    • Why is research necessary to prepare for political action?

Here is a great brief guide to internet researching that helps you research in an efficient manner, as well as evaluate sources. It comes from the University of California, Berkeley:
Internet Research Guide for the full description of the checklist items go to
Evaluating Web Pages

Activity 3 - Evaluate a website
Turn to pages 38-39 in your Generation Citizen workbooks. You are going to evaluate a popular website that has gone viral on the internet in the past few days. You may have seen the following video on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr. If not, watch the video below:

From their website: KONY 2012 is a film and campaign by Invisible Children that aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.

Before you donate money to this cause or sign their pledge, you need to think critically about what they are asking you to do and what their agenda is. You need to do some research on this website and what is going on in the world.

TASK: You will investigate the following website:

Invisible Children

Look around on this website and on the internet to try to verify the claims stated on this website. Record your answers on pages 38-39 in your Generation Citizen workbooks.

Activity 4 - Share and Debrief
Share your findings with your group. What did you discover about this website and this company? What do you think about the video now? Does this change your mind about helping the cause of the invisible children? Why or why not?

Exit Ticket - Page 55 - Day 1 Question

What is a reliable source where you often get information? What makes it reliable?

Class Focus Issues

Period 3 - Pollution in school

Period 4 - Start a transition program to help 8th grade students start at the high school, use 9th grade students as mentors

Period 5 - Recycling in the school

How to set up a project wikispace page/poster:everyone will be responsible for at least one part

1) problem -
  • Root cause -
  • SMART goals
  • escalation plan -
2) Researching the issue -
  • Information about the problem -
  • Surveying -
  • how does this affect you? -
3) communicating -
  • Reaching out to people/students -
  • Reaching out to the community -
4) Solutions -
  • what are we doing?
  • what change do we want to make happen?
  • sustainability -
5) Civics Day
  • Malden High
  • GC - State House
6) Taking Action
  • Formal proposal:

- Any other related info/examples from history

Samples from another Generation Citizen class:
Mr. Hurley Period 6 - MBTA
Mr. Hurley Period 7 - Drugs

Period 3 - Trying to prevent air and water pollution in our schools

Create an anti-idling campaign and raise awareness of the dangers of air pollution in schools

Toxic Air and America's Schools - USA TODAY reports
Malden High School's Air Quality Rank and Report
Air Pollution Teaching Toolkit
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection
Healthy School Environments EPA
HealthySEAT - Schools Environments Assessment Tool
Healthy School Environment Massachusetts Resources
EPA School Resources
School Drinking Water Resources - EPA
Assessing Outdoor Air near schools - EPA
Cleaning for Healthy Schools resources
Reduce Idling by schools to clean air
What you can do to reduce air pollution near schools
Anti-Idling Programs
MA Bus Idling Reduction plan
Water in schools
Indoor Air Quality Symtom Checklist
School Quality Survey
School Air Quality Survey for Students
Are schools making kids sick? CNN
No-Idle in school campaign
Idling gets you nowhere
No-Idle in school campaign

- anti-idling toolkits

Possible Solutions
- Reduce car idling around the school
- Test the air and water quality in the school
- Use the HealthySEAT tool to find out about what the school is doing to keep the environment clean
- Pledge to use greener cleaning products within the school
-Promote awareness of ways to reduce pollution around the school

Period 4
Create an assembly/workshop for 8th grade students preparing them for what the high school is really like. Step 1 in a longer process of creating a peer leadership/mentor program for the high school

Tips for a mentor
Mentor2Mentor Program
Mentor program
Start a peer mentor program
Become a mentor

Period 5
Organize a bottle drive to raise money for the freshmen class and to raise awareness about the benefits of recycling.

The Green Team
Recycling coloring book
Get caught recycling posters
Recycling meme - picture campaign?