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[cover of Eye of the Empress]The Eyes of the Empress - Women in Tang Dynasty China

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Mulan as a Unit Study

Take advantage of the interest in Disney's movie, Mulan, to create a China based curriculum unit. Here are some links to help you get started!

ABOUT CHINA
Empires Beyond the Great Wall (www.com/khan/khan.html) In the movie, Mulan meets Genghis Khan, but this was not true. Here's a site to help you prepare a lesson on him. It's from the Royal British Columbia Museum, and has lots of great links to help you plan.

Another China Links Page (historyoftheworld.com/asia/china.htm) A long list of links to help you learn about China.

Lesson Plans on China (www.easc.indiana.edu) This is very extensive. It refers to a workbook, but all the materials seem to be on-line. There are printable reading pages and extensive planned lessons.

DISNEY INFORMATION
Forgotten Disney (pw1.netcom.com/~ranma2/world.htm) A just-for-fun site on past Disney rides, rides that haven't happened yet and so on.

Walt Disney: A Tribute to the Man With the Mouse
(cgi.icongrp.com/~smarshal/tribute.htm) a biography of Walt Disney.

Disney's Unholy War on African Americans and Muslims
(www.alif.com/mirror/disney.htm) not everyone loves disney. check out this article for ideas on creating a unit to help children look for stereotypes or negative portrayals of minorities.

Disney Environmental Story (www.epg.org/disneypage.html) Disney's stand on environmental issues in their own words. I'm still trying to find an on-line article of the environmental concerns others have about Disney-we must have balance.

My anti-Disney Page (www.geocities.com/TelevisionCity/5163/anti-disney.html) List of concerns many people have about Disney. Follow the links and decide if you want to create a research unit around these concerns.

ABOUT MULAN
The Legend of Mu Lan (www.HeroinesinHistory.com/mulan.html) - The first English language picture book of Mulan published in the United States.

The Historical Mulan (www.suite101.com/article.cfm/womens_history/7868) - A look at the historical Mulan with links to a variety of sites, including one that shows you the poem written in Chinese. Mulan FAQ
(www.geocities.com/Hollywood/5082/mulanfaq.html) -
All types of information on Mulan: history, legend, books, Disney's movie and more.

Mulan Fan Club (www.hk.super.net/~shung/favorites/mulan/mulan_fan.html#TP) - started in Hong Kong, see how others view Mulan.

WOMEN IN HISTORY
Woman in History in Children's Books
(www.scils.rutgers.edu/special/kay/femchild.html) - reclaiming the legacy of women in history

Woman in World History Curriculum (home.earthlink.net/~womenwhist/index.html) - Interactive site full of information and resources about women's experiences in world history. For teachers, teenagers, parents, and history buffs.

WHAT TO DO WITH ALL THESE LINKS
How you approach this unit will probably depend on the ages of your students. The younger they are, the more basic you will need to be. For young children, stories, basic geography and simple concepts are best.

Mulan - Start by telling the legend of Mulan. There are excellent books available that were not put out by Disney. My article can be used if you don't find the book you want. Then watch the video. Find out what Disney changed or added. Remember that this story is believed to be true, but it has become a legend, so stories change as they are told and retold.

Folktales - You may enjoy following a link to the Cinderella Project,
(www.muw.edu/~kdunk/folk.html) which exams Cinderella stories from around the world. Notice how stories change over the years and throughout the world. Another example would be the story of George Washington and the cherry tree. It never happened. This makes an interesting side unit.

What all this teaches - First, you are covering literature. The Ballad of Mulan is a poem, which you will find linked in my Suite101.com article. Then you are doing a compare and contrast project by comparing the movie to the poem. You are also studying folktales. You are learning to evaluate information for truth. You are getting in some history, social studies and geography.

Activities - Compare the versions of Cinderella. What elements are the same? What elements are different? Could the culture of the countries have affected the versions told? You might want to watch the old Disney cartoon of Cinderella, the old musical version they did, and the most recent musical with Brandy. How are they the same? What changed? How did the times in which they were produced force them to make changes? (Notice the newest Cinderella's wish list for a husband, and the way she chooses to leave even before the prince finds her. Also note what the fairy godmother told her about those slippers and fancy clothes.)

China - Follow the links on China. Learn the history, culture and literature. Learn how Mulan is viewed by Chinese women. (I have a link somewhere in my Suite101.com article.) Read books about China. Make Chinese crafts. Toss in a unit on dragons, or fireworks. Eat Chinese food. Visit a China town if you have one nearby. Have older children study how China became a Communist country. The link I have above on lesson plans on China covers this very well.

Have your students read "Homesick: My Own Country" by Jean Fritz. She was in China as a missionary child at the time of the revolution. She also has a sequel telling about her return to China as an adult.

Other women soldiers - This leads you to all sorts of women. Find out who they were and why they fought. An example is Deborah Sampson of the American Revolutionary War. Learn about women in today's military, who do not have to disguise themselves.

Disney - If you like a little controversy in your curriculum (I thrive on it to prevent boredom and build thinkers), do a unit on Disney for older children. I have real challenges where Disney is concerned. I love the theme parks. I love the movies even when I know I shouldn't. I collect Sorcerer's Apprentice Mickeys. At the same time, I get frustrated. I find myself having to explain Disney's problems with women and minorities. I know they are bad for the environment and don't always behave admirably. Let the children do some research, and make their own decisions. One place to start is with those charming cartoons. Let's take a look at a few:

Beauty and the Beast: My first gripe is the way they messed with the story. When we saw this, we researched a dozen versions of the tale, and found one we really loved. Try finding some of your own. Then, I couldn't help but notice that she marries her kidnapper! That's hardly good role modeling.

Pocohontus: We've all heard the complaints about this one. They changed the history. On the other hand, the story may never have really happened at all, so maybe it doesn't matter.

Aladdin: In the original movie, all the bad guys had accents. The good guys, though of the same nationality, spoke like Americans. Why is this a problem? If you were an Arabian child with an accent, how would this make you feel?

This is a good time to talk about the power of the media. Does it matter if people are portrayed accurately in movies? What about Disney's habit of giving women no goal other than marriage? Mulan was praised for having a woman who wasn't built like a Barbie doll, had brains and courage, and had a more important goal than getting married. (That's not to say that marriage is unimportant. It's just that it is nice if girls have other interests too.)

The movie leaves a lot of room for expansion. Literature, history and thinking skills fit easily into this unit. Chinese culture is responsible for many inventions, so science is easily included. There are many opportunities for writing in this unit as well. Have fun!

The original lesson plan was prepared online by Terrie Bittner and can be found at
http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Oracle/4336/mulan.html

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