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Prescribing BeautyPrescribing-Beauty

  • Subject: Social/Emotional Health
  • |
  • Grade(s): 6-12
  • |
  • Duration: Three class periods

Lesson Plan Sections


Students will
  • Consider what it means to be beautiful.
  • Compare ideas with those of researchers in the field.
  • Develop a questionnaire to determine what other people think beauty is.


  • Prescribing Beauty videoand VCR, orDVDand DVD player
  • Computer with Internet access
  • Newsprint and markers


  1. Begin the lesson by asking students what they think it means to be beautiful. If students need help getting started, open the discussion with the following suggestions, recorded on a sheet of newsprint:

    • A beautiful person has big eyes and a small nose.
    • A beautiful person does not have acne.
    • A beautiful person is kind on the inside as well as being attractive on the outside.
    • A beautiful person has long, straight hair.
  2. Continue the discussion by adding student's ideas about beauty to the list you started. Then tell students that they are going to work in small groups to think more deeply about this issue. The goal of the activity is to develop a questionnaire that students can use to determine how other people define beauty.

  3. Divide students into groups of three or four. Give students about 15 minutes to brainstorm ideas. If students feel ready, they can begin to draft questions for their questionnaires.

  4. Tell students that much research has been done on this topic. The first segment of the video Prescribing Beauty describes some of this research. During the next class period, suggest that students watch this segment. They also can find interesting information on the following Web sites:

  5. For homework and into the next class period, have the groups complete their questionnaires. Then have the groups "pair up" and try out their questionnaires on their classmates.

  6. Conclude the lesson by bringing the class together for a final discussion. How well do students think their questionnaires worked? Do they help reveal what students think beauty is? Did the activity help them clarify what beauty really is?

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Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.
  • Three points: Students were highly engaged in class discussions; worked productively in their groups to develop an effective questionnaire; drew insightful conclusions about the meaning of beauty.
  • Two points: Students participated in class discussions; worked reasonably well in their groups to develop a satisfactory questionnaire; drew somewhat insightful conclusions about the meaning of beauty.
  • One point: Students participated minimally in class discussions; had difficulty working in their groups to develop a questionnaire; were not able to draw conclusions about the meaning of beauty.

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Definition: The perceived attractiveness of a human being
Context: Whether we like it or not, beauty does seem to affect the ease and success of an individual's life.

halo effect
Definition: The research-documented theory that states that attractive people tend to be smarter, better adjusted, more popular, and more successful than their less attractive peers.
Context: The term "halo effect" got its name from the association of beautiful people with angels; like angels, they seem to have a halo over their heads.

Definition: balanced proportions; the size, shape, and position of things on one side of a dividing line are similar to those on the other side
Context: Symmetry is a characteristic that defines beauty in all cultures around the world.

waist-to-hip ratio
Definition: the relationship between the waist and the hips and buttocks
Context: In Western cultures, more fat on the hips and buttocks than on the waist-a low waist-to-hip ration-is considered more attractive than a high one.

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National Academy of Sciences
The National Science Education Standards provide guidelines for teaching science as well as a coherent vision of what it means to be scientifically literate for students in grades K-12. To view the standards, visit this Web site:

This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:

  • Science in Personal and Social Perspectives: Personal and community health

Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL)
McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visit

This lesson plan addresses the following national standards:

  • Health: Knows how to maintain and promote personal health
  • Language Arts — Viewing: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media

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Marilyn Fenichel, education writer and editor

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