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Writing for Change

Activity Description

How the U.S. government classifies race and ethnicity

Students will learn about how the U.S. government classifies race and ethnicity. The teacher will play a video of students at Park East High School in New York City who contacted the U.S. Census Bureau to start a conversation about the way race and ethnicity are identified in census surveys. Students will also read a blog post explaining how the Census Bureau has changed the way it collects data on race and ethnicity. In the last part of the activity, students will write a letter that could be sent to a leader in their community with the goal of sparking some type of change.

Suggested Grade Level


Approximate Time Required

120 minutes

Learning Objectives

  • Students will cite evidence from a video to explain how students at a high school in New York City got the attention of a government agency.
  • Students will use persuasive writing skills to write a letter to a leader in their community with the goal of sparking change.

Materials Required

  • The student version of this activity, 25 pages
  • Teacher computer with Internet access and speakers and a projector to display Web sites

This activity uses the following online resource:

Activity Items

The following items are part of this activity. The items and their sources appear at the end of this teacher version.

  • Item 1: Race and Ethnicity
  • Item 2: 2010 Census Questionnaire
  • Item 3: American Community Survey Questionnaire
  • Item 4: Measuring Race and Ethnicity Across the Decades: 1790-2010

Teacher Notes

Blooms Taxonomy

Blooms Taxonomy

Students will understand the impact of Park East High School students’ letters.

Students will apply lessons learned from the Park East High School example to their own persuasive letter.




  • Persuasive writing techniques
  • Race and ethnicity
  • Roles of young adults in society

Skills Taught

  • Analyzing primary sources
  • Comparing and contrasting surveys
  • Writing persuasively


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