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Lesson Plans

Charles R. Drew: Athlete, Surgeon, Innovator, Mentor!

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grade level: 7–8 | subject - history and social studies

time needed

two 45-minute class periods


Students explore the Profiles in Science: The Charles R. Drew Papers website to learn the concept and effective use of primary and secondary sources, and about Charles R. Drew, MD, an African American surgeon. In Class 1, students are introduced to Dr. Drew through selected visual and textual materials about him, which they use to define what primary and secondary sources are. Students read an excerpt of the site's biographical text, then create their KWL chart about Dr. Drew and identify primary sources related to the excerpt. In Class 2, students work with Dr. Drew's biographical information, write summaries of their readings, and complete the KWL chart that includes the historical context in which Dr. Drew lived. As a class, students construct a timeline of Dr. Drew's life and are assigned to write an essay about him, including primary sources, a secondary source quotation, and information about a relevant historical event or context.

  • learning outcomes
    Students will be able to
    • Understand the concept of primary and secondary sources and be able to distinguish between the two types of sources.
    • Analyze and interpret details from online primary and secondary sources, describing the work and legacy of Charles R. Drew, MD.
    • Write about one of Dr. Drew's accomplishments, supported by a selection of primary and secondary sources.
    • Identify at least one historical event or context that influenced Dr. Drew.
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  • background information

    African American surgeon Charles Richard Drew (1904-1950) has been called "the father of the blood bank," for his outstanding role in conceiving, organizing, and directing America's first large-scale blood banking program during the early years of World War II. While best known for the blood bank work, Drew devoted much of his career to raising the standards of African American medical education at Howard University, where he trained a generation of outstanding surgeons, and worked to break through the barriers that segregation imposed on black physicians. His premature death in a car accident generated enduring stories that he was a victim of medical segregation, though this was repeatedly proven false.
    (Excerpted from "Biographical Information" in Profiles in Science: The Charles R. Drew Papers. Courtesy National Library of Medicine)

    Teachers are encouraged to review extensive materials about Dr. Drew, his achievements, and his legacy that are used as source materials for the class, by becoming familiar with the Profiles in Science: The Charles R. Drew Papers website.

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  • vocabulary

    The following words may be introduced or incorporated during class discussion: primary source, secondary source, attain, acclaim, personification, predicament, illustration, segregation, Great Depression, World War I, World War II.

    There may be additional vocabulary terms students look up during the course of the lesson, depending on their assigned passages.

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  • materials

    Print All Materials

    Internet access to the following websites:


    • Introduction: Charles Richard Drew (PDF) (MSWord); Teacher's Introduction: Charles Richard Drew (PDF)
    • Optional, Definitions: Primary and Secondary Sources (PDF) (MSWord); Teacher's Definitions: Primary and Secondary Sources (PDF)
    • Optional, Quiz: Primary and Secondary Sources (PDF) (MSWord); Teacher's Quiz: Primary and Secondary Sources (PDF)
    • An Excerpt from "Biographical Information" (PDF) (MSWord); Teacher's an Excerpt from "Biographical Information" (PDF)
    • Charles R. Drew: Primary Sources (PDF), if no access to the Internet (class 1, step 9)
    • KWL Chart: Charles R. Drew, MD (PDF) (MSWord)
    • Biographical Information: Paragraph Assignments (PDF)
    • Biographical Information: Brief Chronology (PDF)
    • Biography Summary: Charles R. Drew, MD (PDF) (MSWord); Teacher's Biography Summary: Charles R. Drew, MD (PDF)
    • Teacher's Primary Sources (PDF), if no access to the Internet (class 2, step 6)
    • Charles Drew Timeline (PDF) (MSWord); Teacher's Charles Drew Timeline (PDF)
    • Essay: Charles R. Drew, MD (PDF) (MSWord)
    • Extension Activity Excerpts (PDF) (MSWord)
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  • class 1 procedures
    1. Ask students whether they know of Dr. Charles Richard Drew. If yes, have a student or two volunteer to briefly share how and what they already know. If not, proceed to the next step.
    2. Show students the Profiles in Science: The Charles R. Drew Papers site and hand out copies of Introduction: Charles Richard Drew to students. Tell students that they will use this online exhibition to learn about Dr. Drew, an influential American.
    3. Read aloud the first paragraph. Optionally, read it a second time and model vocabulary work-understanding meaning in the context of a sentence, deconstructing, or looking a word up in a dictionary, etc.
    4. Have students work in pairs and answer the following questions based on the information on the Introduction: Charles Richard Drew handout:
      • What are your observations on the portrait?
      • What information can you gather about Dr. Drew from the text?
      • What do you already know about historical events and the setting during which Dr. Drew lived?
    5. Call on several student pairs to share their answers to the above questions. See Teacher's Introduction: Charles Richard Drew for discussion guide.
    6. (Optional) Assess whether students understand what primary and secondary sources are by taking a poll on whether the photo (primary) and the text (secondary) are primary or secondary sources. If needed, conduct a review activity with Definitions: Primary and Secondary Sources and Quiz: Primary and Secondary Sources. See facilitation guide in Teacher's Definitions: Primary and Secondary Sources and Teacher's Quiz: Primary and Secondary Sources.
    7. Display the "Biographical Information" page or An Excerpt from "Biographical Information", from the Profiles in Science: The Charles R. Drew Papers site, and read aloud the paragraph-"Washington was become an electrical engineer."
    8. Hand out copies of An Excerpt from "Biographical Information" to students, and work as a whole class or assign student pairs to re-read the text and answer the questions on the handout. See Teacher's an Excerpt from "Biographical Information" for possible answers.
    9. Assign student pairs to look at the primary source items in the "Photographic prints" and "School records" sections of the Profiles in Science: The Charles R. Drew Papers website, and identify at least two items related to Dr. Drew as a young athlete.

      [Note: If students don't have access to the Internet to view the website, have students work in pairs to examine the primary sources from the Charles R. Drew: Primary Sources handout, and select primary sources that support the excerpt text.]
    10. Distribute copies of KWL Chart: Charles R. Drew, MD to students, and have them complete the "Know" and "Want to Know" columns using their handout materials from this class.
    11. Have 3-5 students work together to share and revise what they "know" and "want to know" based on the small group discussion. Afterwards, allow several students to present one or two of their own "know" and "want to know" items.
    12. Class 1 Evaluations: In addition to class participation, completed handouts may be used for assessment of student comprehension and progress.
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  • class 2 procedures
    1. Display the Profiles in Science: The Charles R. Drew Papers site or the Introduction handout, and return to students their copies of KWL Chart: Charles R. Drew, MD from Class 1.
    2. Review as a class the various items from the "know" column, while relating them to relevant primary/secondary sources that have supported students' knowledge about Dr. Drew. Then review students' items from the "want to know" column.
    3. Tell students that the class will work together to learn more about Dr. Drew so that some of their "want to know" items can move into the "learned" column.
    4. Display the "Biographical Information" web page. Have students pair up and assign each pair one or two paragraphs (including the quote at the top) of the "Biographical Information" text. See Biographical Information: Paragraph Assignments.
    5. Hand out copies of Biography Summary: Charles R. Drew, MD and Biographical Information: Brief Chronology. Review the tasks on the Biography Summary handout, addressing any questions students may have.
    6. Allow student pairs to work on a computer and complete the tasks on Biography Summary: Charles R. Drew, MD including completing the "learned" column on their KWL Chart handouts for the task #8 of the biography assignment.

      Alternatively, if there is no access to the Internet, have student pairs work with copies of one of the six Biographical Information: Paragraph Assignments. For #7 task, display or handout printouts of primary sources from the website-see Teacher's Primary Sources for a suggested list of items to printout or display.
    7. Have student pairs present so that the full biography text and related primary sources are reviewed as a class. Allow students to add items to "learned column" on their KWL Chart handouts based on the presentations. See Teacher's Biography Summary: Charles R. Drew, MD.
    8. Tell students that they will put their knowledge about Dr. Drew together with what they have learned about U.S. and World History during his life time.
    9. Display Biographical Information: Brief Chronology, hand out copies of Charles Drew Timeline to students, and complete the "Charles Drew Biography" and "Relevant Primary Sources" columns. See Teacher's Charles Drew Timeline.
    10. Have students work in pairs to complete the "HISTORICAL CONTEXT" column on the Charles Drew Timeline handout. Then have several pairs share their historical context entries. See Teacher's Charles Drew Timeline.
    11. Ask students what they consider key historical events or settings that influenced Dr. Drew's life as a person or as a medical scientist. Have students consider how their understanding of Dr. Drew's work and accomplishments are enhanced by taking into account the historical setting in which he lived.
    12. Distribute Essay: Charles R. Drew, MD assignment. Review the assignment requirements and rubrics with students. Students should write the essay for homework.
    13. Class 2 Evaluations: In addition to class participation, teachers can use students' completed handouts to assess their progress in meeting the learning outcomes.
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  • evaluations and extension activities

    In addition to observing and assessing students during class discussions, teachers can evaluate student progress and understanding of the topic by reviewing completed handouts and the essay assignment collected from students.

    Extension Activity:
    • Put 3-4 students into writing-workshop groups and have them revise their essay on Dr. Drew, then create a group poster presentation that includes at least five photos and three documents from the Profiles in Science: The Charles R. Drew Papers site.
    • Have students choose and study at least two excerpts from Extension Activity Excerpts in order to create a presentation that focuses on the connection between Dr. Drew’s success in the medical field and his experiences in other parts of his life. Provide students with examples of possible topics, such as
      • Coaching at Morgan State and being part of the surgery department at Howard;
      • Being a mentor as a professor/doctor and being an athletic coach;
      • Being a leader in the African American community and an innovative doctor; or
      • Dedication to his wife/family and to his career
      Allow students to choose the method of their presentation—slide presentation, poster display, an oratory eulogy, song lyrics, etc.
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  • National Education Standards
    Common Core State Standards: Literacy in History/Social Studies
    • Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources.
    • Determine the central ideas of information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
    • Identify aspects of a text that reveal an author's point of view or purpose.
    • Integrate visual information (E.G., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
    • Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and the style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
    • Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.
    National Center for History in the Schools : Historical Thinking Standards (

    • Distinguish between past, present, and future time.
    • Identify the temporal structure of a historical narrative or story: its beginning, middle, and end (the latter defined as the outcome of a particular beginning).
    • Interpret data presented in time lines and create time lines by designating appropriate equidistant intervals of time and recording events according to the temporal order in which they occurred.
    Historical Comprehension:
    • Identify the author or source of the historical document or narrative.
    • Reconstruct the literal meaning of a historical passage by identifying who was involved, what happened, where it happened, what events led to these developments, and what consequences or outcomes followed.
    • Draw upon the visual, literary, and musical sources including: (a) photographs, paintings, cartoons, and architectural drawings; (b) novels, poetry, and plays; and, (c) folk, popular and classical music, to clarify, illustrate, or elaborate upon information presented in the historical narrative.
    Historical Analysis and Interpretation:
    • Consider multiple perspectives of various peoples in the past by demonstrating their differing motives, beliefs, interests, hopes, and fears.
    Historical Research Capabilities:
    • Obtain historical data from a variety of sources, including: library and museum collections, historic sites, historical photos, journals, diaries, eyewitness accounts, newspapers, and the like; documentary films, oral testimony from living witnesses, censuses, tax records, city directories, statistical compilations, and economic indicators.
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