The Media Burn Independent Video Archive contains many unique videos that provide different perspectives on cultural, political, and social issues, forming a one-of-a-kind resource for educators. Independent video makers captured candid interviews, which make up the collection. These videos are more immediate than other kinds of documentary journalism and are uniquely informative.

The Media Burn Independent Video Archive is a valuable resource for instructors preparing lessons about history, politics, media studies, ethnic studies, journalism, and many more topics. Within each of the topics below, instructors can find lesson plans, which include: video details;  pre- and post-screening discussion questions; in-class activities; and suggested homework assignments.

Note: These lesson plans are in development. We welcome your suggestions for additions and improvements.


Social Studies/Science

Teachers can use the social studies and social science lesson plans to help students think about their own lives and connect to the lives of people in their communities, past and present.



These lessons will help students understand the history of politics, how government works, and how things have changed or not changed  over time. While focused on the late twentieth century, these videos highlight ideas and subjects that have shaped American politics for over two hundred years.  Students will learn how citizens can become involved in the political process, examine the reasons why young people become involved in politics, and make connections to the politics of today.

media studies

Media Studies

Media wields great influence over the lives of ordinary Americans, especially when applied to the business of advertising. Internet has taken over TV as the biggest advertising sector, but television was historically the primary medium for advertising. The Media Burn collection contains a number of videos that provide a historical portrait of television advertising. The lessons below highlight some of these.


Gender Studies

History has been traditionally written from a male perspective. Women are often forgotten, left out, or treated as secondary actors who have had a minimal affect on historical events. Just because women have not held positions of power doesn’t mean they should be ignored or marginalized. Men were traditionally identified as the “breadwinners”, though women worked just as hard or harder to support their families. The videos in these lessons will help highlight the struggles women faced to earn equal rights, show them at work, and highlight their roles as participants in political, social, and cultural life.


Chicago: The People & Personalities

Media Burn, based in Chicago, has an extensive collection of video about the people and personalities of Chicago in the late twentieth century. The films provide a look into the lives of everyday Chicagoans as well as the larger-than-life figures like Mayor Daley and Bill Veeck. These videos will be especially useful for showing students a look at Chicago at a time when many Americans across the country thought cities were dying. While some of the videos deal with the hard subjects of crime and decay, they focus on the people living in Chicago neighborhoods and provide a distinctive look at the city.