The Arab Spring

Teaching the Revolutions

The Arab Spring — the popular uprisings across the Arab World that began in early 2011 — was the defining moment for a generation of Arabs, and was the seed of some of the most devastating, ongoing conflicts in the world today. However, it also produced some surprising and inspiring democratic successes. In addition to being an important moment in contemporary history, the Arab Spring combines topics that are interesting and important for middle and high school students to understand, like how governments work and how they fail, how young people can affect political change, and how many of contemporary conflicts that seem never-ending began.

Recommended Topics to Discuss

  • Reasons for rebellion
  • Timelines of the uprisings
  • Who participated
  • Methods of rebellion (i.e., social media strategizing)
  • Aftermath: successes (i.e., Tunisia) and failures (i.e., Syria)
Background Information
Lesson Plans and Teaching Guides
Films & Documentaries
  • The Square the must-see documentary of the Arab Spring. It was shot during the early days of the protests in Egypt, and centers on the occupation of Tahrir Square in Cairo (free on Netflix)
  • We Are The Giant in this powerful documentary, civilians in Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, and Libya face the decision to take up arms and fight for their liberty as their countries experience popular uprisings (for rent on Amazon Prime)
  • The Trials of Spring portrays women in Egypt fighting to ensure that the popular uprisings include everyone (free with PBS membership – ask if your school has one)
  • A Revolution in Four Seasons is a documentary following two women in post-revolution Tunisia, one of them secular and progressive, one an Islamist, fighting for their visions of Tunisia’s future (free on Youtube)
YouTube Videos
Podcasts
Books
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