In its 22nd year, "Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life" is a baseball-themed character education program developed by Major League Baseball and Scholastic Inc. Using America's sport, baseball, as the metaphor for life, the curriculum is based on the values demonstrated by barrier breaker Jackie Robinson: citizenship, commitment, courage, determination, excellence, integrity, justice, persistence and teamwork.
The Breaking Barriers essay contest asks students, grades 4 through 9, to submit an essay about barriers or obstacles they have faced or are still facing in their lives, and how they used the values exemplified by Jackie Robinson to deal with those obstacles. Sharon Robinson, Consultant, Community Affairs and Educational Programming for Major League Baseball, and daughter of Jackie Robinson, developed and consults on the program.
Breaking Barriers has reached more than 34 million youth and 4.6 million educators in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Using baseball-themed activities, the program is designed to give children in grades 4-9 strategies to deal with barriers and challenges in their lives. Winners receive a variety of prizes.
Make class sets of the Baseball Diamond Essay Organizer for Grade 9 printable and the Values and Barriers printable.
Step 1: Distribute copies of the Baseball Diamond Essay Organizer for Grade 9 printable. You can also have students use the digital version by loading the Essay Organizer Digital Interactive on student computers or assigning the activity as homework. As a class, review the steps of the essay-writing process in the printable. To reinforce concepts of barriers and values, as well as the history of Jackie Robinson, refer back to previous lessons in the unit.
Note: Teachers may wish to use their own preferred essay or writing organizers.
Step 2: First Base — Choose a Topic. Ask students to identify a barrier they’ve faced and a value they’ve used to face and overcome the barrier. Remind students to be as specific as possible. Example: Saying you’re “afraid” or not old enough is too general. Narrow the topic to “fear of failing” or “too young to drive.” Likewise, saying you used “courage” or “integrity” is too general. Discuss specifics of the value(s) used.
Step 3: Second Base — Write Your Main Ideas. Assign students to do a quick three-minute “free-write” of a sentence or two for each of the writing prompts below:
- What was the barrier you faced?
- What are some basic details about the barrier? (For example: When did you face the barrier? Who was involved in the situation? Where did it occur?)
- Which of Jackie Robinson’s nine values did you use to overcome the barrier?
- How did you use the value to face or overcome the barrier? (Write a separate sentence for each value, if you used more than one.)
- How was your barrier similar to the barriers that Jackie Robinson faced? How was it different?
- What was the outcome of using your value(s)?
Step 4:Third Base — Create an Outline. Explain to students that outlines help them organize their essays. Tell them that they can move items around or take them out as they create their outlines. Their goal should be to arrange their ideas in a logical way. Remind students that each main idea needs details to support it.
Step 5:Home Plate — Write Topic Sentences. Explain to students that in this step they will write topic sentences based on their outlines. Generally, each topic sentence begins a new paragraph. Supporting sentences follow and provide information that helps explain the topic sentence.
Step 6: Assign students to write a personal essay on the following theme:
Write an essay about a barrier that you have faced. Explain how you used one or more of Jackie Robinson’s nine values (listed below) to face this barrier.
For definitions of these values, share the Values and Barriers printable or Values and Barriers Digital Interactive with students.
Have students use the information they prepared in Steps 2–5 above to complete their essays.
Optional: Share the following additional writing tips with students:
- Try writing a few “practice” sentences to get your mind ready to go.
- Use the outline you created on “Third Base” to keep you on the right track.
- Your essay should begin with a good lead-in sentence. Creating a strong lead-in sentence can help guide your essay writing.
Breaking Barriers Essay Contest
Encourage students to enter their essays in the Breaking Barriers Essay Contest.
The Breaking Barriers Contest is an opportunity for students about barriers they have faced in their own lives, and how they have used Jackie Robinson’s values to face those barriers.
Distribute copies of the Breaking Barriers Essay Contest printable to students for contest guidelines.