Lesson Title: The Need for Ecumenism- from the Great Awakening to Delano Grade Level

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Lesson Title:

The Need for Ecumenism- From the Great Awakening to Delano

Grade Level:

Grade Eight Lesson 8

Unit of Study:

Connecting Past Learnings, a New Nation.

History-Social Science Standard:

8.1.1 Describe the relationship between the moral and political ideas of The Great Awakening and the development of revolutionary fervor.

Correlation to K-8 California Adopted Textbooks:

Houghton Mifflin. A More Perfect Union. American Journey

Setting the Context: (historical background)

The American Great Awakening created conflict among the religious groups in early eighteenth century America. This disharmony, mainly created by itinerant preachers like George Whitefield, led to a need for tolerance and a movement towards the separation of church and state that was later incorporated into the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom and the First Amendment of the Constitution. The principle of separation of church and state makes it possible for people to join in an ecumenical movement. Therefore, the spiritual arguments of the Great Awakening laid the foundation for the spiritual agreements that we have today. The need for such ecumenism was clearly needed in the struggle for better conditions among the migrant workers. Though César E. Chávez was a devoted Catholic, he saw both the beauty and necessity of ecumenism. The migrant farm worker movement lends a practical way for students to make connections from the colonial period to the present day.

Focus Question:

What is ecumenism?

What does it mean to have separation of church and state?

Is ecumenism possible without the separation of church and state?

Expected Learning Outcomes:

The students will explain the importance of ecumenism in terms of providing strength to political movements like the American Revolutionary War and the migrant workers’ struggle for individual rights.


Students will create a cause and effect pattern graphic organizer and use it to write an essay that makes real world connections.

  1. The Cause and Effect chart will help demonstrate understanding of the discussion. The measurement should include a clear connection between the two historical periods.

  1. The student essay can elaborate on the information in the cause-effect chart. The grading rubric should include an assessment of the historical connections.

Key Concepts:



separation of church and state

Essential Vocabulary:


Great Awakening
Primary Sources:

“The Mexican American And The Church” by César E. Chávez. El Grito, Summer 1968.

Excerpt from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Edited by Frank Woodworth Pine. New York: Garden City Publishing Company, 1916. Pp. 191-198.
The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, 1786.
“A Summary of Events In The Grape Strike 1965" Source: FWA. “Farm Workers Association.”

Picture of César E. Chávez sitting with Helen Chávez and Jesse Jackson on either side standing and holding hands.

Map of original 13 colonies
A graph showing the religious diversity in the colonies prior to the Revolutionary War.
Picture of George Whitefield.



Discussion: On the back of the dollar bill it says “E Pluribus Unum.” What does that mean? Is this true with religion? Why or why not? Follow up: Does religion unite or divide? Give examples.

Go on to develop a vocabulary graphic organizer around the word “ecumenism.” The easiest way is to split the board in half and, after giving a strong definition for ecumenism, have the students list examples of ecumenism on the board on the left, and on the right have students list nonexamples. This should be easy, but will demonstrate for the students the fact that both examples and nonexamples readily exist in today’s world.
Making Connections:

Students should understand that many of the original 13 English colonies were founded on religious principles. For many colonies, religion was an accepted part of government, either as a state-sanctioned religion or a state-supported religion.

Students should also understand that many of the Mexican American migrant workers were Roman Catholic, but not all. They should also understand that César E. Chávez sought to unite people regardless of race, religion, or ethnicity, though he is often equated with only Mexican Americans. César E. Chávez was a great ecumenical leader.
Vocabulary Activities:

Use César E. Chávez speech to get at the heart of ecumenism.

If teacher chooses, the students can also go through the time-line of the Delano Grape Strike to identify ecumenical instances.
The second part of the motivation exercise should help with vocabulary development. However, this can be expanded using the Frayer model for introducing or reinforcing vocabulary. Instead of splitting the board in two, divide into four quadrants. Extend the left side to have the top show historical examples and the bottom left show recent examples with the right side of the board doing the same with nonexamples. This will help the students make even more connections to the vocabulary word.
Guided Instruction:

  1. Use motivation activity along with the making connections section to activate prior knowledge and create schema, along with developing essential vocabulary.

  1. Create an understanding of The Great Awakening period by using Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography describing George Whitefield. Explain to the students Whitfield’s magnetism and draw, as well as the conflict he created among established religions.

  1. Ask the students whether itinerant preachers like Whitefield were more likely to unite or divide people in the colonies. Most classes will be split in their answers but steer the discussion towards the fact that though there will always be disagreement, there will also be some unity among those that disagree. Discussing things, even though they are controversial, brings about grouping.

  1. Next, ask the students if it is possible to create an understanding among people who have such different core values and beliefs. The answer is that it is possible and our country is an example of how it is possible. The answer lies in the First Amendment. It was developed as a response to the great divisions that could be found around America as a result of the Great Awakening and the combination of Church and State in most states.

  1. Present the excerpt from the Virginia Declaration of Rights that deals with religious freedom and the first clauses of the First Amendment. Ask students if they see the influence that the Virginia Declaration had on the First Amendment. Explain to the students that the Virginia Declaration was instrumental in creating the first two clauses of the First Amendment. The Virginia Declaration was written, in part, because of the circumstances surrounding the Great Awakening. The Virginia Statute created a spirit of cooperation that helped unite us after the Revolutionary War. The First Amendment is a civic guide for living with our deepest differences because it takes religion out of the government arena so that government is neutral towards religion and conscience. Of course, this has not always been the case, but the principle of separation of church and state continues to be our guiding principle.

  1. Have the students read César E. Chávez’s speech on the Mexican American and the Church. Discuss with students if such a speech would have been possible without the First Amendment’s religion clauses? Why or why not?

Some possible answers are: a) If there was a state church Chávez would likely not have had the same kinds of freedoms to express himself, especially if he was from a minority religion; b) Since the majority of Americans in early America limited the right of immigrants to vote, it is unlikely that any religion other than Protestantism would have been allowed to be the state church. As a result, it is unlikely that the Roman Catholic Church would have had such a solid presence among the migrant workers; c) It would have been unlikely that there would be a spirit of ecumenism among the churches. When one church is state supported, there is not as strong of a need to work together with other churches.

The teacher can also choose to have the students go though the UFW time-line of the Grape Strike. Students can highlight or underline ecumenism within the explanation of the strike.

  1. The students can now create, with the help of the teacher, a cause and effect chart. Have students split their papers in two. At the left they can write “Consequences of the Great Awakening;” on the right can be “Effects of the First Amendment religious liberty clauses.” Students should then list the information presented in the lesson in the appropriate sections of their cause and effect chart.

  1. The processing can end here or the students can go on to develop an essay making the connections between the Great Awakening and the spirit of ecumenism found within the migrant farm worker movement.

  1. End the class with a discussion of the following questions:

Did the Delano Grape Strike gather a national following because of its moral or political arguments?

Does the First Amendment offer a framework from which we can live with our deepest differences?
Integrating Language:

Listening is essential for this lesson to work. Students need to develop good listening skills to go beyond some of the instant defensive emotions that come up when discussing religions. They will also need to practice active listening to fill out the cause and effect chart.

Reading comprehension is enforced by the development of schema in regards to the essential vocabulary. Students are also required to read with a purpose throughout the lesson.
Discussion skills will also be used when discussing issues of ecumenism.

  1. There are many Internet sites that deal with George Whitefield. However, his sermons are too lengthy for most middle level students.

  1. The spirit of the time period is captured within Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. More information on Paine and his work, including a video discussion of the time period, can be found at C-SPAN’s Web site created for their American Writers series.

  1. The First Amendment Center’s Web site is a wonderful reference for any individual wanting to see application of the First Amendment. The link to the Freedom Forum provides valuable guidelines for teaching about religion within the curriculum.

Service Learning:

The spirit of ecumenism is more important now than ever before. Students can do their part in bringing awareness to this need by asking their local ministers and religious leaders about ecumenical movements in their area or suggesting that such a dialogue needs to get started. The students can also research to see if their local school district has a policy for dealing with issues of religious diversity within the school district. The First Amendment Center/Freedom Forum can contribute valuable information towards this goal.

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