Using The Harvey Milk Story in Schools
Celebrate Harvey Milk Day – Using The Harvey Milk Story in schools
Using The Harvey Milk Story in schools
We’ve gathered together some resources to help educators use the book:
»»An Educators’ Guide to The Harvey Milk Story, written by author Kari Krakow
»»Using Harvey Milk to Discuss Nonviolent Activism, written by educator Danielle Morrison
»»Elementary curriculum about discrimination and homophobia, put together by San Francisco Schools SFUSD Health Education
The Harvey Milk Story
Written by Kari Krakow
Illustrated by David Gardner
Two Lives Publishing, 2002
$19.95 jacketed hardcover
32 pages, Ages 8 and up
Educators’ guide written by Kari Krakow
Using Harvey Milk to discuss Nonviolent Activism guide written by Danielle Morrison
An Educators’ Guide to The Harvey Milk Story
Click here to download a pdf of the educators’ guide.
About the Book
“On a rainy day in January, on the steps of San Francisco’s City Hall, Harvey Milk was sworn into office, the first openly gay elected city official in the United States of America. Harvey Milk had made history.”
In making history that day, Minnie Milk’s intelligent, energetic and courageous son showed the world that by not being afraid to be yourself, you can give others the courage to be proud of who they are. In this picture-book biography of an important gay-rights figure, Krakow (an elementary school teacher for over twenty years) honestly looks at Milk’s life in the broader context of discrimination and hope. The discussion topics in this guide are meant to help teachers of grades 3 and up in your exploration of the book, its themes, and the life of Harvey Milk.
- When Harvey was growing up he was afraid to tell his friends and family he was gay. Discuss with students what Harvey feared would happen to him if people found out that he was gay. What were the consequences of Harvey keeping such a big part of himself a secret?
- Ask students under what circumstances have they kept silent about their beliefs, feelings or actions because they feared the response of their peers their family? How did it make them feel to do this?
- Ask students how coming out might be the same or different for young gay people today.
- When did Harvey finally feel like he belonged to a community? What conditions made this possible? How did this help Harvey take the risk to be open about who he was?
- Discuss why it is important to feel a sense of belonging. What does if feel like to not belong? What makes them feel like they belong? Have they ever “come out” to their peers about beliefs, feelings or actions that set them apart? What prompted or enabled them to take the risk? What were the results?
- When Harvey Milk was a young man, many people were the subject of prejudice and mistreatment. Gays and lesbians were routinely fired from their jobs and evicted from their homes. How do anti-discrimination laws like the one Harvey worked hard to introduce in San Francisco help gay and lesbian people have the same rights as everyone else in their communities?
- Ask students to research what states today have anti-discrimination laws that protect gay and lesbian people. What are the laws of anti-discrimination like in your community?
- Harvey Milk often spoke about the importance of hope. What message did Minnie Milk give to Harvey that he never forgot, and why was this so important to Harvey? When else does Harvey demonstrate the importance of hope in the story?
- How might Harvey’s message help young people today?
- Did Harvey Milk die in vain? What other people in history died for who they were and what they believed? Did they have a message that is remembered after their death? Why is it important to read books like The Harvey Milk Story?
Post Reading Activity
Students can research what events took place in San Francisco after the assassination of Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk. What was the outcome of Dan White’s trial? What happened in San Francisco when the verdict was announced?
- For more information about creating supportive and welcoming school communities, contact GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network) atwww.glsen.org and the Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools initiative.
- For more information about supportive family and friends, contact PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) at www.pflag.org.
- For more information about laws protecting gay people, contact Lambda Legal Defense Fund at www.lambdalegal.org.
- For more information about the trial of Dan White and the life of Harvey Milk, see “The Times of Harvey Milk,” a film by Rob Epstein and Richard Schmiechen.
Using Harvey Milk to Discuss Nonviolent Activism
Click here to download a pdf of the guide.
Written by Danielle Morrison, Teacher
We talk about Harvey Milk as part of our conversations about nonviolent civil rights leaders and movements. In this study, which lasts about 6 weeks and eventually culminates in a social action plan and project, we spend time talking about Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, Harvey Milk and Shirin Ebadi (a leader who is currently working for women’s and children’s rights in Iran). We work in this order (chronologically) and it works well this way. We spend about 3 days on Milk, using morning work, discussion at meetings, activities and homework to find out and process what he did and worked for. We also watch parts of “The Times of Harvey Milk” – obviously, these portions are selected carefully because it is not a movie made for 8 year olds, but there is a lot of actual footage of his campaigns, etc. The Candlelight March is also incredible for the kids to see.
I’ve used the book, The Harvey Milk Story, in a couple of different ways to complement and get this part of the study rolling. It works because there is a context to the story for the kids-of rights and fighting for rights. They are already trained to look for nonviolent ways to protest injustice. Milk becomes another example of an activist. One way I have done this is to read the book with them and talk it through as we go. I usually ask questions to tease out 1) his background, where he lived, worked, grew up, etc, 2) the kinds of injustice he saw in San Francisco 3) the methods he used to effect change and 4) the similarities he shared with other leaders of movements. Along with various other things, I want them to see that people can work from the inside out-becoming a part of the government or the system to make change happen. Up until Milk, they have only seen people who fought against the system from outside of the system.
The other way I have done this is by creating passages (2)-the first on the first 2 ideas up there and the second on the last two from above. I give this out in the morning when the kids arrive and they read it just like they would a passage on Chavez. It is taken almost verbatim from the book. There is nothing “special” or “different” about reading about Milk, then, and I have found that this works well, too, establishing the tone in the room from the morning on. There is a portion of the passages, like the book, that states what the terms gay/straight/lesbian and homosexual/heterosexual mean. This helps the kids who have never heard these terms before (they get smaller every year!) and they usually bring this to the discussion then.
The other interesting thing that I have noticed about these conversations-well, there are lots of interesting things really, but one – is that they want to know a lot about Joe Campbell and Scott Smith. Usually I have a picture or two ready to show them. Just like I had a picture or two of Coretta Scott King for MLK, as people who supported these leaders. For Milk, though, this leads to a conversation about marriage and gay marriage. In the past, this has been something that the kids have felt really strongly about and have wanted to or actually written letters to Congress, etc. regarding gay marriage initiatives. That, then, becomes their social action project – It’s really neat and organic, really comes from the kids.
Elementary curriculum about discrimination and homophobia
Click here to download a pdf of the curriculum.
Put together by San Francisco Schools SFUSD Health Education.
There are many different kinds of discrimination, including homophobia. This story is about Harvey Milk, and how he fought for equal rights for gays and lesbians.
By the end of the lesson students will be able to:
- List three facts about the life of Harvey Milk;
- Discuss different kinds of discrimination and prejudices
- Understand the importance of standing up for what you believe in