Center Stage--Focus on the Mentally and/or Physically Challenged

6, 7, 8

Students will be engaged in reflection of stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination related to physical and/or mental challenges. From a cognitive and affective perspective, students will be involved with activities to assist them in developing sensitivity to working in direct service projects with individuals who are physically and/or mentally challenged. Subsequently, students will also generate guidelines for positively and sensitively working with these individuals. Conduct/proper etiquette, as well as appropriate conversation, will be addressed.

Lesson Rating 
PrintTwo Forty-Five Minute Periods

The learner will:

  • describe difficulties encountered by persons with physical and/or mental challenges.
  • identify the task, skills and procedures for successful interaction with individuals who have physical and/or mental challenges.
  • Student copies of Am I Ready to Serve? (Attachment One), one per student
  • Be Good to Eddie Lee by Virginia Fleming
  • Jim Bud and Eddie Lee—A Second Chance (Attachment Two), one per group or student, depending on format
  • Fleming, Virginia. Be Good to Eddie Lee. New York: Philomel Books, 1993. ISBN: 0399219935.
  • Spaide, Deborah. Teaching Your Kids to Care. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1995. ISBN: 0806516372


  1. Anticipatory Set:Present the saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover." Ask students whether they feel this is good advice and why. Encourage them to give personal examples relating to the meaning of this saying. Elicit analogies of the "book" and the "cover." Ask what it means to judge.



  2. Relate the Anticipatory Set to the regard for people with physical and/or mental challenges. Allow students to discuss life experiences with individuals of any age who have handicapping conditions.

  3. Discuss reasons why some people become uncomfortable in the presence of individuals with physical and/or mental challenges. (Students may mention: because they are not "used to" being around people who have physical and/or mental challenges, ignorance, stereotypes and prejudice, or feeling uncomfortable with the handicapping conditions.)

  4. Read the book Be Good to Eddie Lee by Virginia Fleming. Ask students to make predictions about the story content before reading it (based on the cover illustrations and the title). After reading the book, provide students the opportunity to reflect on its meaning to which they can relate. The following ideas, according to levels of thinking, are some examples:

    • List characteristics of Christy, Eddie Lee and JimBud.
    • Explain how Christy felt at the beginning, middle and end of the story.
    • Choose one of the characters and tell why you relate best to him/her.
    • Tell why you think Christy, Eddie Lee and JimBud thought/acted as they did.
    • Imagine you are Christy. Write a diary account of your thoughts and activities.
    • Write a recommendation as to why the book should be read by others or explain why you believe they should not read the book.
  5. Using Jim Bud and Eddie Lee—A Second Chance (Attachment Two) and the five-step "how to" process for forming opinions (see Lesson One), ask students to reflect upon JimBud's words and actions. In the boxes on the left, direct students to write how JimBud did not act according to the given steps. In the boxes on the right side, suggest how his relationship with Eddie Lee could be positive if he acted against stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination with an action in accordance with the five steps.

  6. Day Two:

  7. Invite a guest speaker to educate students about myths and realities of individuals who are physically and/or mentally challenged. Use Am I Ready to Serve? (Attachment One), as a guideline for information to gather. This can be given to the guest speaker ahead of time and previewed by students prior to the presentation. Information should be shared within a 10-15 minute period of time.

  8. With the assistance of the guest speaker or other professional, provide students a simulation experience to "walk in the shoes" of someone who has a handicapping condition (visual impairments, non-ambulatory, etc.). Emphasize the point that people with physical and/or mental challenges face these difficulties 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. Provide time for reflection and discussion about the concerns and frustrations experienced as well as how other senses and strengths are used to compensate.


Working in small groups, students will write a short verse to a song (lyrics decided in Lesson Two: Center Stage—Focus on Poverty). The groups may remain the same from Lesson Two or Three, or new groups may be created. Read the chorus created by the class in Lesson Two. It includes the importance of acting without discrimination based on prejudice and stereotypes. The guidelines for writing the verse must include: the task (general description), skills necessary to successfully carry out the task, and key guidelines for sensitively interacting with people who are physically and/or mentally challenged. Students should use information gathered and recorded on Attachment One: Am I Ready to Serve? as a resource guide. The verses created in this lesson (as well as the chorus and verses created in Lesson Two: Center Stage—Focus on Poverty and the verses created in Lesson Three: Center Stage—Focus on the Elderly) should be saved for use later in Lesson Five: The Final Act—Reflections and Revisions.

Cross Curriculum 

Suggested service projects (see Bibliographical References) relating to this lesson topic may include: Raise a seeing eye dog or help Paws with a Cause Recreation therapy (Special Olympics, YMCA, etc.) Plan a party Learn sign language

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 03. Providing Service
      1. Benchmark MS.3 Describe the task and the student role.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Demonstrate the skills needed for the successful performance of the volunteer job.
      3. Benchmark MS.6 Describe the procedures and the importance of sensitivity to the people with whom students are working.