by Marsha Rakestraw

In her TEDx talk, “Educating for Freedom,” IHE President Zoe Weil highlights how our culture inundates us with marketing and advertising every day, telling us we won’t be happy or successful or sexy or worthy unless we buy what they have to offer, and hiding from view all the suffering, oppression, and exploitation that are inherent in many ads and their products and services.

She also emphasizes the need to provide students with the tools to free themselves from the pull of such advertising and to help them become conscious citizens able to discern, think critically, and make choices based on their own values.

We can help both children and adults protect and empower themselves from marketing and advertising. Here are 11 humane education activities that can help:

  1. Analyzing Advertising
    Students learn to be ad-savvy by exploring the pervasiveness of ads in their lives and by analyzing what ads are trying to sell…and trying to hide.
    Recommended for grades 5 and up.
    Time: 45-60 minutes
  2. Be a C.R.I.T.I.C.
    Participants learn and use the C.R.I.T.I.C. technique to enable them to bring critical thinking skills to any information they receive, whether from industry, non-profits, government, or media.
    Recommended for grades 6 and up.
    Time: 30-45 minutes
  3. In Your Face: Reclaiming Billboards
    Billboards are omnipresent in most communities and on many roadways. These in-our-face ads can have a powerful influence on us. Students explore issues surrounding billboards and the values billboard ads promote and design new billboards that help reclaim their visual space and restore value in their communities and culture.
    Recommended for grades 9 and up.
    Time: Varies – at least 2 class periods
  4. It Ads Up
    This activity explores: How do ads influence us? What strategies do ad designers use to target different groups of people? How can we recognize those strategies and our own triggers?
    Recommended for grades 8 and up.
    Time: 30-45 minutes
  5. I’ve Been Branded
    This icebreaker activity helps students gain a sense of how surrounded they may be by brands and products by using Wordle.
    Recommended for grades 6-12.
    Time: 45 minutes
  6. Magazine Scheme: Are We Here?
    Students explore articles, images and ads in magazines targeted to teen girls to explore messages about women and girls and the effect of those messages on young women and men. (The activity can also be modified to explore appropriate men’s magazines and messages about men and boys.)
    Recommended for grades 7-12.
    Time: 2 class periods of 45-60 minutes
  7. Not So Fair and Balanced: Analyzing Bias in the Media
    This lesson plan helps high school students take a closer look at prejudices, the biases that media contain and perpetuate (such as in what they do and don’t report on, or how particular genders or ethnicities are portrayed), and the ways we are influenced by those media biases.
    Recommended for grades 9 and up.
    Time: One week of 45 minute class periods
  8. Selling “Boy” and “Girl”
    Students use toy catalogs to explore gender stereotypes and consider non-traditional gender roles.
    Recommended for: Grades Pre-K-4.
    Time: 45-60 minutes
  9. Take Two
    Unveil the manipulation inherent in marketing and corporate branding and awaken the creativity of your students by having them explore commercials aimed at them and then empowering them to create new commercials with a positive message.
    Recommended for grades 8 and up.
    Time: Two class periods, one week apart
  10. We Have You Surrounded
    We’re surrounded by marketing and advertising telling us what to buy, who to be, what we need to be happy. Use this series of activities to help students explore issues of branding, marketing, and globalization.
    Recommended for grades 9 through 12.
    Time: Several weeks
  11. Where Are the People Like Me?
    Students assess examples of  media (catalogs, magazines, books, etc.) to consider who is (and isn’t represented) and to explore the impact of lack of diversity in media and their own rich experiences with diversity.
    Recommended for grades 4-10.
    Time: 45-60 minutes


Get more relevant resources in our Media, Media Literacy & Marketing Pinterest board.


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