Unit 8: Searching the Home Page.
Individual research

In this Unit we’ll learn to recognize the Nakba in places that are meaningful to us, through individual research. While conducting the research, students will be exposed to a variety of information sources, and will try to link the place they know personally to historical materials.

1. To learn the untold history of where we live.
2. To develop critical, independent tools for studying history.

Histories: Histories, Education

1.  Introductory task:

In the first part of the lesson we’ll try to investigate the Palestinian history of places that are meaningful to us. Each student will first choose one place that has meaning for them, one they would like to study (places can be selected from the map each student drew in Unit 1). They should find information about it that they didn’t know previously, and answer the following questions: What was there before 1948, and what happened in that year? The research project should include gathering information about the location’s history, interviews, illustrations, articles, maps, etc. Use the list of resources on the instruction sheet (cf. Supplementary material). Each student should choose at least two sources from the list. In the second part of the lesson, each student will present their results to the class. Each project should be prepared in such a way that it can be displayed in class alongside the others – for example, on a poster, in a computer presentation, or in some other way amenable to class display.

To the teacher: The students may ask what kind of place they should choose. Suggest to them that they choose an entire locality, rather than a location within a locality.

2.  Independent research using the school’s computer lab and the library:
Students will use the instruction sheet (cf. Supplementary material) to conduct research using the computer and reference books. After the research projects have been completed, the teacher will tell the students to highlight the new information they discovered.

3.  Presenting the results:
The students will create an exhibit of their projects. They will be displayed on posters or in computerized presentations. The teacher will post blank sheets of paper next to each project.

4.  Viewing the exhibit:
The students will walk around the exhibit and look at the various projects. As they do so, they’ll be asked to write their responses to them on the blank sheets of paper – in words, in a drawing, a sketch, etc.

5.  A “guided tour” of the exhibit:
The teacher will lead the students through the exhibit. Each student will present their project to the class. Encourage the students to ask questions about the projects while they’re listening to the presentations.

6.  Concluding discussion
-  What was it like for you to do the research and collect material?
-  Did your project change the way you view the location? In what way(s)?
-  Was there anything that surprised you while you were doing the research?
-  Did you hear different stories about the place you selected? Were the stories consistent or inconsistent?
-  Are there inconsistencies among the stories? If so, why? For instance: Do names change? If so, why? Are the same people mentioned in all the stories? If not, why?

Supplementary material:  Instruction sheet
Instruction sheet for the individual research activity
[In the accompanying envelope]

Theoretical background
Critical pedagogical activity is comprised of words and actions. Paolo Freire argued that language has the power to define reality, but it also has the ability to expose what reality conceals. Creating a new language of critical concepts can prepare students to examine critically the reality with which they are familiar.  

Learning about the Nakba introduces students to a new language that they can employ in order to uncover and identify the covert and overt structures in our history and culture.  An education that allows students to take a sober, critical view of reality also provides them with the strength to confront their own identity.  The Nakba is a major component of contemporary Palestinian identity and culture, but it is also part of our own history and identity. Learning about the Nakba through a process that legitimizes a variety of voices enables us to challenge the various meanings of the reality in which we live, and thus to come to know it better. In our view, learning about the Nakba involves learning about the here-and-now, and what students learn about the Nakba is directly relevant to them.

The constructivist approach conceives of learning as occurring when students internalize and structure the knowledge they have gained, and make it their own. Moreover, when students are active, independent participants who reflect on their learning and on their thought processes, and take their own stand, they learn more deeply and expand their internal world. A learning process that encourages this kind of intellectual journey includes investigation, locating information, and making use of a range of means of expression.

Pedagogical rationale
This Unit links a broad range of general information about the Nakba with places to which students are connected personally – a link that helps the students make the general information their own personal knowledge. The Unit stresses the fact that, although we’re usually familiar with a particular view of the place selected, other perspectives also exist – other histories, other stories about it. The view we’re familiar with, one that has been imprinted upon us, requires the silencing and erasure of other accounts. This Unit will introduce students to stories they haven’t heard, in particular about 1948 and Palestinian history, and thereby broaden what they know about the location they’ve chosen.

The activity consists of the students preparing individual research projects and presenting them to the class. If possible, we recommend dividing the lesson into two parts: a research activity in the computer lab and the library, and a separate lesson – an exhibit displaying the research results - during which the research process will be worked through. Each of the students will, independently, search for a variety of information sources that will expose them to materials and information they didn’t know about.  Because the activity requires students to present information and stories relating to places in which they grew up, we recommend that, prior to the lesson, the teacher should find out what was there before 1948. By doing so, the teacher will be able to ask questions during the lesson and encourage the students to think critically. The individual research projects encourage students to investigate their immediate environment and, once they have finished using the research materials available at school, to obtain additional information by interviewing relatives and neighbors.

The research results will be shown to the class on posters and in presentations.  Displaying the results facilitates serious consideration of each student’s work, and of the materials they found, as well as learning about the different locations investigated by the students. The exhibit could be displayed in various ways, according to what the teacher and students decide. We recommend presenting alongside one another projects dealing with the same location, to encourage comparisons among the material presented and the findings. Each student will indicate on the project what new information they discovered, so that it can be the focus of discussion, rather than spending a lot of time on what is already known. We also recommend posting a blank sheet of paper next to each project, for responses, to let the other students comment on them in different ways than orally - in writing, with an illustration, etc.


1. Freire, P. (2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. NY: Continuum International Publishing Group.

2.  Naveh, E. and E. Yogev (2002). Histories: Toward a Dialogue with the Israeli Past. Tel Aviv: Babel Publishers (in Hebrew).

3.  Ibid.

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