Lesson Plan


Acquaint students with eugenics, a movement that distorted science in order to justify negative ideas about minorities and people with disabilities.

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The Holocaust
Final Solution

Enduring Understanding

Eugenics was an idea that captured the interest of governments all over the world in the early 20th century and had horrific consequences for minority groups.

Essential Question

  • 1How can science be abused to justify discriminatory beliefs and laws?


10 Min
Teacher's Note
Be cautious that certain students might buy into this logic and think that the speaker is correct in their thinking.

The lesson focuses on Eugenics in America, since the primary source materials are all in English already. However, it is important to set the stage for a tie back to Germany as well.
Begin the lesson by reading these two quotes and asking your students to summarize their meaning and how they are affected by them. In short, what is being said and how do they feel about the statements?
Note at the end that these are quotes from Adolf Hitler.


15 Min

Divide the class into four and distribute one image to each group:

Fair Exhibit
Eugenics Tree
Promotion for Native Sterilization
Popular Science

Use the See, Think, Wonder strategy for analyzing these images in each group (see below)

  1. Ask the group to elect a recorder who will write notes from the group’s discussion.
  2. Then, ask the group to collectively note what they SEE in the image. What details stand out? What are the most predominant features in the image. Have the recorder write down these comments so they can be shared.
  3. Next, ask the group to THINK about what the image means. What do they believe the image is about and why do they think that? What is most important about this image that everyone should note? Again, the recorder should be taking notes.
  4. Then, ask the group to WONDER about the image. What is left unknown about this image? What kind of ideas are provoked but unaddressed? What broader questions are left unanswered for the group. Once more, the recorder should be sure to take notes.


20 Min

Bring all the groups together and ask each to present their image to the larger group. As they share what they see, think and wonder, encourage broader discussion from the whole group. Also, fill in context as you feel comfortable so as to keep stretching the conversation toward greater clarification.

Finally, ask the group to Wonder again about what remains unknown about the Eugenics movement in America or the relationship between this and Hitler’s Germany. These could prompt additional opportunities for exploration with some of the resources below or through the video or reading in this topic.

Teacher Primer

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