American Portraits

Flying High: Amelia Earhart and Self-Sacrifice

In this lesson, students will learn about the passion and drive of Amelia Earhart and the sacrifices she made to be a great aviator. They will also think about ways in which they can make sacrifices to help advance freedom for others.

Founding Principles

Private Virtue image

Private Virtue

The idea that only a knowledgeable and virtuous citizenry can sustain liberty.

Narrative

Amelia Earhart was known as a tomboy growing up. She loved to run, play, and get dirty outside with her younger sister. Despite many setbacks in her life, she continued to be adventurous and tenacious. Amelia’s father was a successful claims officer at a railroad company, but when his alcohol problems were discovered, he was forced to retire. The family had to auction off their home and some of their belongings. In 1915, Mrs. Earhart moved her daughters to Chicago, where Amelia took an interest in science. Amelia graduated from high school and then served as a nurse in Toronto before moving to California….

Narrative PDF

Compelling Question

How can you stand up against possible failure in order to advance freedom for yourself and others?

Virtue Defined

Self-sacrifice is purposeful action exchanging personal loss for the good of others.

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, students will learn about the passion and drive of Amelia Earhart and the sacrifices she made to be a great aviator. They will also think about ways in which they can make sacrifices to help advance freedom for others.

Objectives

  • Students will analyze the self-sacrificing behaviors and actions of Amelia Earhart.
  • Students will evaluate the necessity for self-sacrificing behaviors in order to advance freedom.
  • Students will apply their knowledge to making sacrifices in their own lives to help others.

Background

Amelia Earhart was an aviator born in Atchison, Kansas in 1897. She moved to Toronto to live with her sister in 1917 and served as a nurse during the Spanish Flu epidemic in the city. During her tenure at a hospital there, Earhart became very sick with sinusitis. Before the time of antibiotics, she had to undergo painful surgeries that did not help her condition. Amelia continued to suffer from headaches and sinusitis throughout her life.

In 1920, Amelia moved to California, where she took an interest in flying. Amelia began flying lessons in 1921 and purchased her first airplane soon after. Despite her sinusitis and women’s relatively small contributions towards aviation, Earhart decided that she would be a pioneer in flight.

Vocabulary

  • Aviator
  • Spanish Flu
  • Epidemic
  • Sinusitis
  • Altitude
  • Distinguished Flying Cross
  • Navigation
  • Setbacks
  • Tenacious
  • Gratified
  • Feat
  • American Aeronautical Society
  • Charles Lindbergh
  • Circumnavigate
  • Dysentery

Introduce Text

Have students read the background and narrative, keeping the Compelling Question in mind as they read. Then have them answer the remaining questions below.

For more robust lesson treatment, check out our partners at the Character Formation Project

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Questions

Walk-In-The-Shoes Questions
As you read, imagine you are the protagonist.

  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What fears or concerns might you have?
  • What may prevent you from acting in the way you ought?

Observation Questions

  • How did Amelia Earhart see her role in the world of aviation?
  • What was Amelia’s purpose in being an aviator?
  • Even though flying was her dream, Amelia sold her plane when her family faced financial ruin. Why did she do this, and what did this action demonstrate about her character?

Discussion Questions
Discuss the following questions with your students.

  • What is the historical context of the narrative?
  • What historical circumstances presented a challenge to the protagonist?
  • How and why did the individual exhibit a moral and/or civic virtue in facing and overcoming the challenge?
  • How did the exercise of the virtue benefit civil society?
  • How might exercise of the virtue benefit the protagonist?
  • What might the exercise of the virtue cost the protagonist?
  • Would you react the same under similar circumstances? Why or why not?
  • How can you act similarly in your own life? What obstacles must you overcome in order to do so?

Additional Resources

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