In this two-part challenge, students examine the lives of fictional characters to learn of the factors that seem most essential in supporting a person's quality of life. You may wish to refer to Qualities of a Good Life (Critical Challenge) and Daily Life in Four Communities (Critical Challenge), to develop background knowledge and understanding required to complete this activity. Otherwise, introduce the positive and negative feelings that constitute a quality of life (e.g., feeling safe, afraid, healthy, sick) and discuss the factors that contribute to these positive feelings (e.g., being protected, having doctors and medicine). You may wish to create a list of these feelings and their contributing factors.
Find several children's stories (e.g., Cinderella, Mother Goose) or create brief fictionalized accounts of people with very different lives (e.g., young people who are financially well-off but are not happy, children who have "rich" lives despite living in harsh circumstances, children who have strong passions that drive them through great sacrifice). Provide students with copies of the profiles to follow along as you read them aloud. Direct students to think about the quality of the lives of the characters/people. Make a list of the feelings that make them happy and those that make them sad and, while rereading the accounts, invite students to look for clues that would suggest the cause of each of these positive and negative feelings (e.g., the person is feeling cold because she does not have clothes to keep her warm, she has not had much food, her house has thin walls). You may want to adapt the chart and strategies for Supporting Conclusions (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity. Invite students to compile a list of factors that contribute to or diminish each person's positive feelings.
From this discussion, help students summarize and cluster the factors that contribute to positive feelings into a list of between five and 10 of the most important factors. The criteria for deciding on the most important factor might include the following:
- would bring about a lasting positive feelings
- would have a positive influence on other feelings
- is something that people can do.
You may wish to adapt the strategies and chart for Considering Options (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity. Keep a record of this list as it can be used as a lens for exploring the quality of life in the four communities profiled in this inquiry. This list will likely include contributing factors such as the following:
- Food and water
- Clothing and shelter
- Friends and family
- Job or source of money to buy necessary things
- Schooling to be able to read and write
- Freedom to act and ability to get around (transportation)
- Opportunities to do interesting things
- Safety and protection
- Health care
Adapted from Caring for Young Peoples' Rights, by Jan Nicol and Dan Kirk (Richmond, BC: The Critical Thinking Consortium, 2004), 19.