A Mini-Unit on


Margaret Mead:



Famous Person: Margaret Mead
Related Topics: Anthropology
Cultural Acceptance
Grade Level: 6th grade
Author: Jennifer Keeler


Table of Contents



Margaret Mead once stated that she set out to understand people and to use what knowledge that she gained to help other people. Margaret's purpose in life was one that was very unselfish because more than anything she wanted to help others. Margaret Mead was a woman that dreamed of becoming someone important and making a difference in her world.

Mead was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1901 to very highly educated parents for their time. Ever since she was a young girl, Margaret had a desire to gain an education and to choose an occupation that would help her make her mark in society. First, Margaret attended DePauw University in Indiana for one year, then she studied at Barnard College in New York. Later she received her Ph D. Degree from Columbia University.

Mead first traveled to Samoa, more specifically to the island of Tau. There she lived with the Holts, an American family. After living in Samoa only six weeks, she had learned the language. Margaret spent virtually all of her time talking with the natives, absorbing everything she could about the culture. She had a hard time adjusting to the climate and experienced some very violent storms. While in Samoa, Margaret focused her studies on the development of adolescent girls on the island. In 1928, Margaret Mead published her best known book, Coming of Age in Samoa.

Mead is recognized most for her studies in Samoa, however she also lived among several other primitive people such as the Manus tribe of the Admiralty Islands, the Arapesh, the Mundugumor, the Tehambuli, Balinese, and Iatmal. She learned to speak all of their languages and emersed herself in each culture.
Mead authored twenty-six books and published numerous articles. These works of literature have been translated into virtually all languages. Especially later in her life, Mead was recognized as a worldwide leader. She had a heavy influence on the United Nations, the Episcopal Church, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science for which she was elected to head in 1974. Another major accomplishment occurred in 1926, soon after her return from Samoa, when Mead was appointed Curator of Ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. Mead continued her association with this museum the rest of her life.

Margaret Mead left a lasting impression on people from her generation as well as those who live today. The work that she accomplished during her lifetime was a base from which others have continued to research further. To women, she served as a source of inspiration for her achievements in a professional field. Through her work as an anthropologist, Mead helped bridge gaps between cultures to resolve misconceptions and existing prejudices. It is easy to see the great contribution that Margaret made to the world and why she is viewed to be an individual that made a difference. Mead accomplished her goal in life.


Byline, Laurence. (1984). Margaret Mead: A Life. American Museum of Natural History.
Vol. 93 pg. 86.

Johnson, Spencer. (1979). The Value of Understanding: The Story of Margaret Mead. La
Jolla, CA; Value Communication.

Womens International Center. (1997). Margaret Mead: Tribute to Greatness.[On line}.
Available: http://www.wic.org/bio/mmead.htm


1. Students will be able to describe the significant contributions of Margaret Mead and the impact that she had on her field of study.
2. Students will demonstrate their ability to locate given places on a world map.
3. Students will be able to effectively communicate ideas to the class in an oral format.
4. Students will use inference skills to define traits of a specific culture.
5. Students will demonstrate their use of thinking processes to identify what they would like to accomplish in their lifetime.
6. Students will demonstrate research skills as they learn about Margaret Mead's life.


Time Allotment

Approximately six class periods.

Resources Needed


Map of the world
Several issues of National Geographic
Four words posted in corners of classroom



1. Mini-Lecture. Using the above background information, share some of Margaret Mead's experiences traveling to distant lands. Emphasize the point that she had to ignore any pre-conceived assumptions or stereotypes that she might have held at that time. She took the people for who they were and accepted their way of life. Also, inform the students of the undeveloped places that she visited. Have the students locate these locations on the world map.

2. Research and Think-Pair-Share. Students will be asked to do some basic research on Margaret Mead's life accomplishments. Students should be given class time to go to the school library to find resources. Also, if available and permissible, the Internet would be a good source of information. Students should get a sense for her travels and discoveries. Next class period, everyone will participate in Think-Pair Share. This activity is carried out as follows: The teacher will pose a question such as, "What most impresses you about Margaret Mead?" The students should be given a few moments to think, then get with a partner to exchange ideas. Lastly, the teacher calls on a few students to share their thoughts.

3. Corners. Using Corners, students are given an opportunity to express their opinion about an important idea or issue. For this unit, the students will be asked to individually complete this statement in their heads: The word that best describes the actions of Margaret Mead is:
The four words will be placed in each corner of the classroom. Students will be given a moment to ponder the statement and decide which work they feel best describes Margaret Mead. The students will then be instructed to stand by the word they have selected. Then give them time to discuss in their groups why they feel strongly about that particular descriptive word. Next, call upon a student from each group to explain their groups' reasoning. Ask the class if anyone would like to change their selection. If someone does so, ask them what made them change their mind.

4. Inquiry. Students will be put into cooperative groups and each group will be supplied with pictures of a specific culture. National Geographic would be an excellent source to draw from. The pictures should be cut out and laminated for prolonged usage. The students will attempt to describe traits of the culture using inference skills. After ample time has been given, new groups will be formed. To do this, have everyone count off in their original group. For example, if there are five students in each group, them one person will be #1, another will be #2, etc. Then have all the #1's meet together, the #2's meet somewhere else, etc. In the new groups, each person will have an opportunity to explain what inferences were made in their original group. After discussion, a recorder will write a final "portrait" of the culture. The next day in class, the teacher will present the actual details of the culture given in the magazine. The students will evaluate how close their inferences were to the way things really are.

5. Oral Presentations. For the last two days of the mini-unit, have the students reflect on Margaret Mead's major contributions. Explain that Mead spent quite some time searching for the occupation she wanted to pursue. Ask them to prepare on paper their thoughts of what they would like to accomplish in their lifetime. Not only can this include a desired occupation, but also what qualities he or she would like to develop. When they are ready, each student will share their ideas orally to the class. Each student should speak for three to four minutes.

6. Reflection Paper. Students will be given an opportunity to write a brief passage telling three meaningful things they have learned in their study of Margaret Mead.


1. Observations of students locating places on the world map will be assessed informally through observation.
2. Progress during time given for research will be assessed anecdotally.
3. Individual contributions given during Think-Pair-Share will be assessed informally through observation.
4. Participation in individual groups in Corners will be assessed informally through observation.
5. Effective use of inference skills during the inquiry activity will be assessed anecdotally.
6. Speaking skills utilized in the oral presentations will be assessed anecdotally.
7. Specific information contained within the reflection papers will be assessed for accuracy and evidence of careful thought in writing should be evident.



Additional Resources:

Center of Teaching International Relations Publications
(Elementary, Secondary, and College Level Teaching Material - Activity Books and Educational Software)
CTIR Publications
University of Denver
2201 S. Gaylord
Denver, CO 80208

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