UCCI Course Description

Social Work and Health Advocacy in Action

Overview Course Content Course Materials
Length of Course
Full Year (2 semesters; 3 trimesters; 4 quarters)
Subject Area - Discipline
College-preparatory Elective (G) - Interdisciplinary
UC Honors Designation
CTE Sector
Health Science and Medical Technology
CTE Pathway
Mental and Behavioral Health
Grade Level(s)
9 - 12


Students will build a solid understanding of types of health and analyze the root causes that lead to various health outcomes while experiencing a rigorous curriculum that will prepare them for success in college and beyond. This course will also prepare them for college and careers in these fields of Mental and Behavioral Health, Public and Community Health, and Health Advocacy. Students will receive an introduction to the various careers in Mental and Behavioral Health. Students will delve into analyzing and exploring mental and behavioral health issues in their community and will be prepared to use the skills and tools used in Mental and Behavioral Health to support families facing existing barriers to health. As a way to address reading, writing, speaking and listening needs, the course curriculum will be aligned to the English Common Core State Standards (CSSS).  In addition, the Social Work and Health Advocacy in Action course will align with the new Mental and Behavioral Health Standards and Public and Community Health Standards. The standards represent the academic and technical skills and knowledge students need to pursue a full range of career opportunities in related fields.

Recurring Current Events Reflection: To become more aware of social work and health advocacy in the present, students read and write about Current Events with a focus on mental and behavioral health and/or advocacy. Current Events are turned in bi-weekly. For their first Current Event, an article is provided to guide them through the process.

Course Content

Unit 1 : Essential Question: What is Social Work and Health Advocacy?

Unit 1 Description

In Unit 1, students will begin with an overview of social work and health advocacy. Students read excerpts from Chapter 1 of Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare: Empowering People to build foundational knowledge. Students use prior knowledge of “health,” but are also able to identify more than just physical health as it relates to advocacy. Through the use of stations, students get exposure to the history, job outlooks, and other social work resources. In groups, students also use “task cards” to learn about particular mental health care professionals and present to the class. Through reading and listening to stories of everyday health advocates, students create a short skit to highlight the advocates in our society. In this unit, and every subsequent unit, students complete “current events” to read and write about mental health issues today.

  1. Social Work and Health Advocacy Presentations: Students brainstorm ideas, terms, and associations with health, being healthy, and being a health advocate. Through this brainstorm, a class Wordle is created. Using “Talking Partners,” students review and discuss the various forms of health. Students create an individual and class chart about what they Know, Want to Know, and Learn (K-W-L) about Social Work Using the Course Syllabus. After, students create a group poster and deliver a presentation about their expectations for learning, based on the content of the syllabus.
  2. Social Work Profession Poster Presentations: To contextualize the social work career, in small groups, students read, write and discuss Social Welfare’s relationship to other institutions using a “Hurricane Katrina” case study, “How ‘Welfare’ Became a Dirty Word” and  “Everyone is on Welfare.” Using a “Say, Mean, Matter” type of graphic organizer, students analyze the definition of Social Work and discuss the importance of such a profession. Then, using classroom stations, students read and/or view Social Work and Health Advocacy career overviews, job outlook websites, and social work videos to gain information about the types of jobs in the mental and behavioral health field, salary and education needed, and historical and contemporary social work duties. From the Cornell Notes taken at each station, students develop a poster presentation with the following parameters: 1) a brief description of their assigned profession’s role in mental and behavioral health, 2) qualifications needed for employment, and 3) benefits/challenges of this profession.
  3. “Will the Advocate Please Stand Up?” Skit: Students listen to, watch and read about Antoinette Tuff’s ability to talk an armed man at an elementary school into surrendering. Using this case as a model, they identify key skills used by community advocates. Students also read and make connections to a pioneer in Social Work and Health Advocacy, Jane Addams, by reading and analyzing an excerpt from Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare: Empowering People. Then, using biographies of different citizens nominated for the CNN Hero Award, in small groups, students create short skits to highlight advocacy by ordinary citizens in various communities and for different populations, such as homeless youth centers, meals and childcare for mothers with cancer and education and job opportunities for former prostitutes. From their text, students also learn about the Mental Health Recovery Framework and use their advocacy skits to make connections to the four stages for advocates, students, and community members. Students must work collaboratively to identify the type of advocacy in action and create a reenactment of that type of advocacy, with scripted dialogue that highlights the issue or conflict. Students write short informal reflections upon completion of skits to capture takeaways.


Unit 2 : Essential Question: What is community organizing? How do you create a campaign?

In Unit 2, students develop an understanding of community organizing and creating campaigns for change. The purpose of this unit is to introduce young people to the key concepts and basic skills of creating and leading a youth-led campaign aimed at institutional and systems change. These sessions will be used to identify a specific campaign issue and begin the process of developing a campaign strategy. Students will use skills acquired this unit to present to local organization and community members.

  1. Organizing Scenario Skits: Students will read and analyze scenarios of pollution in a community. They will receive and/or research additional information on elected officials, community organizations and nonprofits, health centers and hospitals, and places of worship,  to create skits that show the different people and organizations that could help. Each skit will focus on a different stakeholder and must include scripted dialogue that showcases: 1) the group’s approach to social change, 2) the type(s) of power that prevent or support change, and 3) a strategy to involve more community members in making change. After all skits are presented, students will discuss the effectiveness of making change based on the the stakeholder they highlighted.
  2. Creating Youth-led Campaigns:
    1. Assessment and Research (Part 1):  In groups, students will create a “Tree of Causes” to identify the core issues causing problems in their school or local community. For example, if students identify drug use at school as a problem, students will need to identify the “root” of the problem, which could include lack of consequences or minimal parental involvement. After students identify problems existing in their own community, they will need to prioritize the problems that need immediate attention. Each group must write a rationale for one problem the group chooses to focus on. The rationale must include: 1) the impact of the problem on the school and/or community, 2) possible survey data, 3) interviews with community members, 4) an online reference for more context or details regarding the relevance of the problem and 5) explanation of feasible change that can occur as a result of youth organizing.
    2. Campaign (Part 2): Once groups choose the problem they would like to take action on, they will create goals and brainstorm demands. For example, if the problem is drug use in their school, then a goal could be to increase the number of campus supervisors by 2. Then, they have to decide who the best stakeholder might be to demand this from. It could be the principal or even the school board. In their groups, students will create a campaign strategy based on the demands required for change. A formal written campaign strategy must be articulated by the group, including: 1) A description of the institution (or institutions) or official that causes the problem and/or has the power to address the problem. This will also require students to include additional research on the institution or official and tailor the campaign strategy accordingly.  2) At least two demands, specific things that students request of the institution to solve the problem 3) at least two specific activities or tools the group will use to raise awareness of the problem 4) allies in the school or community who would support this campaign, 5) and specific tactics, such as community forums, circulating a petition or delegation meetings. Based on the tactic(s) chosen, in groups, students will role-play their direct action to create needed change.
    3. Soapbox Speech (Part 3): To provide students a forum for advocacy, students will create a “soapbox” speech. To prepare for their 2-3 minute speech, students will review qualities of an effective speech and will watch examples of compelling student speeches. All students will deliver speeches in class, while selected speeches will be presented in front of a panel of community organizations and community members. Students will be evaluated using a rubric based on content, structure and style, and delivery.

Unit 3 : Essential Question: How do societal issues affect mental and behavioral health?

In Unit 3, student will learn about mental and behavioral health, through the lens of societal issues, which play a major role in one’s overall health. Through the study of the causes and effects of poverty, students will create a “Poverty Board Game” to teach younger students about the poverty cycle and the ways to disrupt the cycle. In this unit, students will also read and write about the effects of trauma, in particular gun violence. They will use textual evidence to engage in a Socratic Seminar about trauma and the role of guns. To synthesize their information, students will create brochures for teachers, so they can be aware of the effects of trauma on young people. The brochure will also include tools and tips for teachers to support their students.

  1. Poverty Board Game: Student will view and analyze a short documentary called “Faces of Poverty: Life at the Breaking Point,” Tierra Jackson’s interview on Storycorps, and “The Girl Effect,” video and NPR’s “The Cycle of Poverty Hard to Break in Poorest US City” to identify some prevailing causes of poverty in the United States. Through a  “Four Worlds” chart, students will identify the political, economic, cultural and social factors related to poverty. Students will also read about government programs, which address poverty in the United States, and in small groups, will go online to research city or community efforts to address poverty. Then, students in those groups will use information learned about the poverty cycle to create an educational Poverty Board Game for younger students to learn about poverty and mechanisms for disrupting the poverty cycle.
  2. Socratic Seminar on Trauma and Gun Violence: Student will listen to and/or read transcripts from several podcasts, articles, and other news to analyze the effects of trauma, in particular gun violence. They will also watch short clips from Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine (or similar documentary). Through Socratic Seminar, students will have an opportunity to reference the various texts to pose and respond to questions, express their own ideas clearly and persuasively, and practice formal discussion norms, such as, “I would like to elaborate on that point...” or “We haven’t heard from you. What do you think?”
  3. Trauma and Violence Teacher’s Brochure: Using all resources from this unit, the “Child Trauma Toolkit for Educators,” and their own research, students will make a brochure for teachers so that they can understand the impact of violence and trauma on students and what teachers can do to support students.

Unit 4 : Essential Question: Who are the most vulnerable populations? How do we advocate for them?

Building on the work of unit 3, in Unit 4, students will identify some of our society’s most vulnerable populations, which are often served by social workers. Various chapters from Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare: Empowering People and online resources will be used to give students an overview of the challenges and needs of these populations. Students will begin by learning about the stigma associated with mental illness, and thus they will create a campaign ad to start combating the stigma. Students will also have a Socratic Seminar to discuss the issues raised by people with mental illnesses in prison. To conclude the unit, students will learn about the needs of older (elderly) people. Again, students will review some of the stereotypes associated with older people and have an opportunity to empathize with older populations. In small groups, student will be given an “Older Adult Case Study.” As a group, students will analyze aspects of the elder person’s situation and decide on an appropriate action plan for the person and his/her family.

  1. Mental Illness Campaign Ad: Student will review the stigma associated with mental illnesses by reviewing resources from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, such “What is Mental Illness?” and “The Facts and The Numbers.” Students will also view “A New State of Mind: Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness.”  Students will also read about the new Mental Health Care Benefits Under Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and the inclusion of mental health. Students will create a campaign ad about mental illness. The ad must encourage others to advocate for mental health and/or erase the stigma of mental illness, through the use of a catchy phrase/slogan, color, and visuals. Upon completion, students will display their ads and take part in a gallery walk. Using a rubric, they will evaluate effectiveness of the ad.
  2. Socratic Seminar on Mental Illness: Students will watch the PBS documentary The New Asylums and the movie The Soloist to analyze the connections between mental illness and social services. In particular, students will focus on addressing guiding questions, such as: 1) Is prison the right place for people with mental illnesses? Why or why not? 2) Who is affected by mental illness? 3) Should medication be mandated? and 4) How can we educate others about mental illnesses? By using references from the documentary and movies, students are expected to discuss their responses to the guiding questions, as well as pose their own questions as it relates to mental illnesses.
  3. Older Adult Case Study: Students will read and review documents about ageism and the elderly population. Based on the Aging Sensitivity Training publication, they will take an “Aging Quiz” to review some stereotypes of the elderly population, and students will also engage in an “Aging Awareness” activity which simulates the common needs of the elderly, including loss of mobility and vision. Through this activity, students will build empathy for this vulnerable population.  Students will get a glimpse into taking care of an elderly family member by watching videos about elderly care. To culminate, students take the role of case managers. In small groups, students will be given a different elderly case study to create a health care plan most appropriate for their case. They will monitor an elder's condition and evaluate the caregivers who are providing care. Their ongoing assessment will include such things as the elder's need for adult day care, therapy, grief counseling, home delivered meals, financial planning and home health care. Members of the group must analyze aspects of the elder’s situation and decide on a plan of action for the family. Groups will share their plan of action with the other students through a short skit demonstrating: 1) the needs of their client, 2) the assessment conducted by the case managers, and 3) the recommendations given to the families based on financial need, family support available, and other relevant circumstances.

Unit 5 : Essential Question: What can we learn from previous generations and ourselves? "Knowing Ourselves, Knowing Our Community: Intergenerational Interview Project"

In Unit 5, students will use social work tools to investigate themselves and their community. By using their lived experiences, students recognize and value their own culture, which is needed when designing and implementing patient care in social work. By listening to each other’s experiences, students are able to practice active listening to develop empathy. The culmination to the project is a photo essay, which requires students to craft a focus question, interview questions and follow-up questions. Students must also select photographs, excerpts from interviews and other visual/audio resources to present their information in an organized, clear, and interesting manner.

  1. Creating and Presenting Genogram, Culturagram, and Ecomaps: Students will create their personal genogram, culturagram, and ecomap to create a personal profile and begin to highlight relationships with family members, community members, and institutions. Students will use the “40 Developmental Assets for Adolescents” to identify assets they currently have or lack in their lives. Using Community Circles, students will present findings, particularly of their genogram.
  2. Social Work Tools Essay: In an essay, students respond to the following prompt: How can the 40 Developmental Assets Chart, Genograms, Culturegrams, and /or ecomaps be effective tools for social workers to use to support their clients? Students can include examples from their own process, information learned from readings, and peer presentations.
  3. Intergenerational Photo Essays: Students will create focus questions and interview questions for an intergenerational interview to further explore the essential question: What can we learn from previous generations? Students can use the Culturagram categories as a basis for their focus question. For example, a category is “time in community,” so a focus question could be “How have you seen the community change?” Before the interview, students must create at least 10-12 interview questions that will help them answer their focus questions. For example, a couple of interview questions could include: “How long have you lived in this community? and “Do you believe there have been positive or negative changes in the community?” Students will review the importance of open-ended questions and follow-up questions, such as “Can you give me an example?” or “Can you explain?” Students must interview someone who is at least 55 years old, in their family or community.  Students will create a VoiceThread photo essay or iMovie, which includes photographs, images, and voice narration or clips from interview. Students will be evaluated based on the following: 1) clear focus question, 2) coherent and interesting story through the use of interview questions, 3) clear and engaging photographs and audio, 4) reflection on what was learned from the interview through a clear and thoughtful connection to focus question, and 5) closing credits.

Course Materials

Title: Introduction to Social Work and Social Welfare: Empowering People
Edition: 9th
Publication Date: 2008
Publisher: Thomson Brooks/Cole
Author(s): Zastrow, Charles

Title: Health and Social Care Careers
Publication Date: 2010/07/01
Publisher: Amicus
Author: Barker, Geoff

Title: Careers in Nutrition
Publication Date: 2008
Publisher: Rosen Publishing Group
Author: Bickerstaff, Linda

Title: Health Care Job Explosion: High Growth Health Care Careers and Job Locator
Publication Date: 2006
Publisher: Bookhaven Press
Author: Damp, Dennis V.

Title: Social Work (Ferguson's Careers in Focus)
Edition: 3rd
Publication Date: 2011
Publisher: Ferguson Publishing Company
Author: Ferguson

Title: Geriatric Care (Ferguson's Careers in Focus)
Edition: 3rd
Publication Date: 2011
Publisher: Ferguson Publishing Company
Author: Ferguson

Title: Health Care Providers (Career Launcher)
Publication Date: 2010
Publisher: Checkmark Books
Author: Buff, Sheila

Title: The Soloist (Video)
Publication Date: 2009
Publisher: Paramount Home Entertainment
Author: Foster, Gary (Director)

Title: Bowling for Columbine (Video)
Publication Date: 2002
Publisher: Alliance Atlantis
Author: Moore, Michael (Director)

Online Resources:

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