Security Is...

Grade Levels: 8 - 12

"I believe… that security declines as security machinery expands."
- E. B. White

This introductory lesson will help students develop a baseline definition and understanding of the concept of security.

TIME: Two to three class periods

Handout 3-2a: Aspects of Personal Security
Handout 3-2b: Security is . . .

Explored the meaning of a specific concept applying analysis, synthesis and evaluation skills.
Developed empathy by discussing perspectives other than their own about basic human needs and rights.
Developed a framework for expanded exploration of the topics and concepts identified in this lesson.
Practiced listening skills.

While dictionaries provide concise definitions of concepts such as security, in this lesson we are soliciting broad-based, personalized interpretations of the concept. Students should be encouraged to define the concept as broadly as possible and to extend their thinking to include perspectives other than their own. The activities below can be completed as a full class discussion. Or students could be asked to work with partners or in small groups debriefing their findings for the rest of the class, and then compiling a list that represents the work of the pairs or groups of students.


  1. Ask students to brainstorm examples of how they have heard or seen the word "security" used. Examples might include: security blanket, Social Security, security deposit, or security guards. Create a class list of responses.
  2. Create a second list of other words that represent security to students. Examples might include: safety, shelter, freedom, or popularity.
    Create a third list that includes words or phrases that might represent security to people from cultures or living situations different from those of your students.
  3. Repeat all of the above activities while substituting the word "insecurity" for "security."
  4. Distribute copies of Handout 3-2a: Aspects of Personal Security. Working with the entire class, compare and contrast the categories and definitions of security listed on the handout and those on the lists that they developed.
  5. Distribute Handout 3-2b: Security Is . . . . Ask students to work in small groups and discuss their opinions of the quotations listed. Then students should create quotes of their own that express their attitudes or perspectives about the meaning of security. Encourage creativity, wit, wisdom, empathy, and free form expression. Create a class list of student quotes. Discuss the list and keep it to discuss again after students have completed additional lessons about personal, national, and international security.


  • Ask students to use dictionaries that translate English to other languages, to look up key words identified in the above activities. Discuss whether words like security or insecurity can be directly translated, and whether definitions are similar or different than English definitions. Discuss the similarities or differences in how different cultures define the terms.
  • Ask students to write a short story, poem, or newspaper article relating interpretations of "security," as identified by the above activities, to the life of a fictional character. Students could either invent a character or use a character from a book, film, or television program.
  • Invite a guest speaker, or panel of guests speakers, to your class who has lived in an economic, geographic, religious, or ethnic culture other than that of your students. Ask the speaker/speakers to talk about how security would be defined by members of that culture. Ask them to compare how they would personally define security as a member of your culture and as a member of another culture they have lived in.

©Copyright 2001, Educators for Social Responsibility. All rights reserved. Inquiries regarding permission to reprint all or part of this lesson should be addressed to: Permissions Editor, Educators for Social Responsibility, 23 Garden St., Cambridge, MA 02138 Send e-mail inquiries to:

To follow-up on this lesson, please try a lesson called, "Security in My Life."

To obtain more lessons which help students better understand themselves and their world, please visit ESR's online book store and order a copy of Conflict in Context

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