The Power of One

Power of One Project

This unit was created during the 2006/07 school year and has not been updated recently. Apologies for broken links.

Basic Idea: Teaching about genocide is a daunting task, especially with middle school students.  During the month of January we started down the path of study about genocide.  Starting with the general definition of genocide and the major events of history involving genocide.  Following that introduction, we moved into the story specifically about Rwanda and of Paul Rusesabagina.  I couldn’t seem to come to terms with the fact that we would study this story and fixate on the negativity of it all.  I then devised a project that would take this very dark chapter from history and focus on the power of one person within the event to use their life to positively impact the lives of others.  It seems like such a simple realization, but one that transformed this project from good to effective and powerful.


  • October– Received information about the opportunity to attend a Paul Rusesabagina speaking event at a local high school.
  • December– Planning for the project, collecting resources, planning the project and making arrangements for having 130 students attend the event.
  • January- Week 1– Definition of genocide, brief overview of genocide past and present
  • January- Week 2– Investigating the history of Rwanda, events leading up to the genocide and American/World response, Paul Rusesabagina’s story
  • January- Week 3 and 4 – Students chose a person that also has used his/her life to positively impact the lives of others.  This person could be famous or local, young or old, alive or dead, the only criteria was that the story of the person illustrates the positive impact on others.  Students then produced ‘movies’ with Windows Movie Maker that told the story, but also ended with statements of how the student plans to use his/her own life to positively impact the world.
  • January 28th– Paul Rusesabagina visits Flagstaff.  One member of the team is selected to join him for a lunch following the speaking event.  I also attended the lunch as the chaperone/driver for all the students.

Links to project outcomes:

Keys for Success:

  • Ask a compelling question
  • Organize a variety of engaging resources
  • Empower the students to tell a story
  • Challenge the students to have a voice


  • 130 students choosing 130 different topics
  • Limited recording resources
  • Technological glitches (server issues, disappearing folders)

In Class resources:

  • Access to the computer lab- equipped with video editing software – 2 weeks
  • Projector in classroom and lab
  • ‘Recording’ space-laptop, speakers, microphone
  • Script Writing in English class (interdisciplinary collaboration)

Web Resources:

Print Resources:


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