Click to hide or show the feedback form

Bookmark and ShareBookmark

Lesson Plan for using the

Film Nova: Secret of the Wild Child

by Anne Cross

I. Learning Objective(s)

An appreciation for the social basis of human nature and the social backdrop of child development. This film demonstrates the importance of social interaction for normal development. It also explores research ethics and Genie’s questionable status as a patient and a research subject of the linguists and other researchers who worked with her. 

II. Rationale for Objectives

This video explores that case of Genie who was raised in social isolation. Genie never learned advanced language or social skills, even with extensive treatment after she was rescued by social workers.

III. Materials/Time

Materials Needed: Nova: Secret of the Wild Child. Boston : WGBH Educational Foundation; PBS Video. 1994.

Time: 1 hour plus time for discussion

IV. Procedures


        (1) Introduction

An instructor can set up the film by asking students to think about the question “who are we without society?”

        (2) Activity

View the film.

        (3) Discussion

The film provides good material for a discussion of the nature vs. nurture question. It is also a good complement to George Herbert Mead’s work on the “Looking Glass Self,” which talks about how we become who we believe others think we are. We define and build ourselves through our perceptions of others’ assessments of us, he says. The case of Genie demonstrates that without those assessments it is difficult to build a self or become appropriately socialized.

V. Evaluation/Assignment

Ask students to identify conditions that, though not as extreme as complete isolation, nonetheless have a similar effect (prisoners of war, extremist cults, isolated communities, etc.) Ask them to compare and contrast the effects of such conditions of relative isolation with the experience of extreme isolation that Genie experienced.

VI. Supplementary Materials

Curtiss, Susan. 1977. Genie: A Psycholinguistic Study of a Modern Day “Wild Child.” New York: Academic Press.

Cooley, Charles Horton. 1902. Human Nature and the Social Order. New York: Scribner’s. Pp. 179-185.

Mead, George Herbert and Charles W. Morris. 1967. Mind, Self, and Society from the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Caroline Hodges Persell, “Becoming a Member of Society through Socialization”

American Sociolgical Association, Code of Ethics, Introduction