“Your Sacred Place” Student Writing Lesson

Describe how you would feel if a place that defines you was threatened to be destroyed or taken away. What would you do? Would you fight to save it?

Students will read and respond to the YES! Magazine article, “Why the Founder of Standing Rock Sioux Camp Can’t Forget the Whitestone Massacre.”

In this article, founder and director of Sacred Stone Camp, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard describes how her identity, history, and survival are intrinsically connected to the land—and water—that is being threatened by the Dakota Access Pipeline. To protect this place, Allard says they have no choice but to stand up. 

Download lesson as a PDF.

YES! Magazine Article and Writing Prompt

Read the YES! Magazine article by LaDonna Brave Bull Allard,  “Why the Founder of Standing Rock Sioux Camp Can’t Forget the Whitestone Massacre.”

Writing Prompt:

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, over 300 Native American tribes, and other allies are protesting construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. At stake are important cultural and spiritual areas, sacred lands and rivers, and people’s histories. For many Native Americans, it feels as if “erasing this footprint from the world, erases Native Americans as people.”

Students, please respond to the writing prompt below with an up-to-700-word essay:

Describe how you would feel if a place that defines you was threatened to be destroyed or taken away. What would you do? Would you fight to save it? 

Writing Guidelines

The writing guidelines below are intended to be just that—a guide. Please adapt to fit your curriculum.

  • Provide an original essay title
  • Reference the article
  • Limit the essay to no more than 700 words
  • Pay attention to grammar and organization
  • Be original. provide personal examples and insights
  • Demonstrate clarity of content and ideas
  • This writing exercise meets several Common Core State Standards for grades 6-12, including W. 9-10.3 and W. 9-10.14 for Writing, and RI. 9-10 and RI. 9-10.2 for Reading: Informational Text.*

*This standard applies to other grade levels. “9-10” is used as an examples.

Evaluation Rubric

Sample Essays

The essays below were selected as winners for the Winter 2017 Student Writing Competition. Please use them as sample essays or mentor text. The ideas, structure, and writing style of these essays may provide inspiration for your own students’ writing—and an excellent platform for analysis and discussion.

“Noni’s House,” by Ella Vonada, grade 7
Read Ella’s essay, “Noni’s House,” about the scratchy records and soft chairs in her favorite house—where she’ll always have someone to catch her if she falls down.

“The Bullfighter,” by Isabel Hardwig, grade 8
Read Isabel’s essay, “The Bullfighter,” about querencias—and the trampoline where she draws strength.

“Standing Up for My Mosque” by Saef-Aldeen Elbgal, grade 9
Read Saef’s essay, “Standing Up for My Mosque,” about the precious guidance he receives from the Oakland Islamic Center—and his plans to protect it.

“Half of Who I Am,” by Imogen Rain Cockrum, grade 10
Read Imogen’s essay, “Half of Who I Am,” about her mother’s war-torn, crayola-bright hometown in El Salvador.

“Candlelight,” by Mara Peruzzi, grade 10
Read Mara’s essay, “Candelight,” about how meditative drawing helps her cope with misophonia, a disorder that causes the hatred of specific sounds.

“My Dressing Room,” by Valerie Hoffman, university
Read Valerie’s essay, “My Dressing Room,” about the office space at school that gives her the privacy and freedom to be herself. 

We Want to Hear From You!

How do you see this lesson fitting in your curriculum? Already tried it? Tell us—and other teachers—how the lesson worked for you and your students

Please leave your comments below, including what grade you teach.

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