Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens and his remarkable achievements at the 1936 Olympics
would be a fantastic way to explore not only his athletic prowess but also the historical context surrounding his victories. Here's a lesson plan outline:

Title: Jesse Owens and His Greatest Olympic Prize


  • Students will understand the significance of Jesse Owens' achievements at the 1936 Olympics.
  • Students will analyze the social and political context of Owens' victories.
  • Students will reflect on the importance of Owens' legacy in the context of civil rights and sports history.


Lesson Plan:

Introduction (15 minutes):

  1. Begin the lesson by asking students if they've heard of Jesse Owens and what they know about him. Write down their responses on the board.
  2. Introduce Jesse Owens briefly, highlighting his accomplishments as an athlete and the historical context of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.
  3. Show a short video clip or series of images showcasing Owens' performances at the 1936 Olympics.

Main Activities (45 minutes):

  1. Historical Context: Provide students with background information on the social and political climate of the 1930s, particularly focusing on Nazi Germany's rise to power and the racial ideology of the time.
    • Discuss the significance of hosting the Olympics in Berlin in 1936 and Hitler's intentions to use the Games for propaganda purposes.
  2. Jesse Owens' Achievements: Divide students into small groups and assign each group a specific event in which Jesse Owens competed (e.g., 100m dash, long jump, 200m dash, 4x100m relay).
    • Have each group research Owens' performance in their assigned event, including his results and any obstacles he faced.
    • Groups present their findings to the class, emphasizing Owens' athletic abilities and the challenges he overcame.
  3. Analysis and Discussion: Lead a class discussion on the significance of Jesse Owens' victories at the 1936 Olympics.
    • Explore the impact of Owens' success on notions of race and athleticism during a time of racial discrimination and segregation.
    • Discuss the broader implications of Owens' actions in challenging Nazi ideology and inspiring future generations.
  4. Reflection: Ask students to write a short reflection on what they've learned about Jesse Owens and the importance of his legacy.
    • Encourage students to consider how Owens' story relates to contemporary issues in sports and society.

Conclusion (15 minutes):

  1. Summarize the key points discussed during the lesson, emphasizing Jesse Owens' role as a symbol of courage, perseverance, and resistance against injustice.
  2. Invite students to share their reflections or any additional thoughts they have about Jesse Owens and his impact.
  3. End the lesson by highlighting the enduring significance of Owens' legacy and the lessons that can be learned from his life story.

Extension Activities:

  • Watch a full-length documentary about Jesse Owens and the 1936 Olympics.
  • Research other athletes who have used their platform to advocate for social change and compare their experiences to Jesse Owens'.
  • Organize a school-wide event or assembly to celebrate Jesse Owens' achievements and discuss the importance of diversity and inclusion in sports.

By engaging students in a variety of activities, discussions, and reflections, this lesson plan aims to deepen their understanding of Jesse Owens' remarkable journey and the broader historical and social context in which it took place.

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