9 Star Hotel

PBS Premiere: July 22, 2008Check the broadcast schedule »

Lesson Plan: Borders Around the World

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This lesson plan is designed to be used with the film, 9 Star Hotel, which shows the daily struggles of Palestinian men who have illegally crossed the border to work in construction in Israel. Classrooms can use this lesson to examine and compare borders around the world and their related issues. Note: This film is in Arabic with English subtitles.

Note: This film includes some mild profanity. Please review prior to using the entire film in the classroom.

POV documentaries can be recorded off-the-air and used for educational purposes for up to one year from the initial broadcast. In addition, POV offers a lending library of DVDs that you can borrow anytime during the school year -- FOR FREE! Please visit our Film Library to find other films suitable for classroom use or to make this film a part of your school's permanent collection.

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By the end of this lesson, students will:

  • Use viewing skills and note-taking strategies to understand and interpret a video clip.
  • Work in groups to analyze information on the history of a border, strategies being used to secure that border and how people on both sides of the border view those strategies.
  • Present their findings to the rest of the class.


SUBJECT AREAS: Geography, World History, Economics, Civics, U.S. History, Current Events.



  • Method (varies by school) of showing the entire class an online video clip
  • Computers with access to the Internet
  • Handout: Viewing Guide (PDF file)
  • World map

ESTIMATED TIME NEEDED: One or two 50-minute classes


Clip 1: "Crossing the Border" (length 4:17)
The clip starts at the beginning of the film and ends at 4:17, with the image of tomatoes being spooned into a pot.

Clip 2: "Life at the Camp" (length 2:42)
The clip starts at 7:38 with a man looking around and ends at 10:20, with the quote "Where am I going to get $18,000?"

Clip 3: "The Men Discuss Their Lives" (length 3:30)
The clip begins at 17:58 with the quote "When your father sees you are 12 ." The clip ends at 21:27 with the quote "... two months, three at the most."

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Issues related to the U.S.-Mexican border are recurring themes in elections, social debates and public policy. In addition, border problems between other countries can influence U.S. foreign policy. By taking a closer look at borders and border management, students can better evaluate strategies aimed at addressing border concerns.

The scenes in the film clips used in this activity take place near the modern Israeli city of Modi'in, located near the border of what Israel identifies as the West Bank and Palestinians call "occupied territory" (about 25 km from both Tel Aviv and Jerusalem). Prior to 1967, the region was controlled by Jordan and was home to thousands of Palestinians. In the aftermath of the Six-Day War, the land came under Israeli control. Claims to the territory have been under contention ever since.

Extremely high levels of unemployment in the Palestinian territories and the construction boom in Israel have created a powerful incentive for workers to cross the border illegally in search of jobs. Estimates place at more than 10,000 the number of Palestinians working without permits in Israel. It is estimated that each Palestinian worker supports as many as seven people on wages earned in Israel. As seen in the film clips, these undocumented workers often are forced to live in the shadows -- in shacks, in unused structures or outdoors. Thousands are caught each week by Israeli security while attempting to cross the border. Israel's security forces argue that tenacious border patrols are necessary to prevent terrorist attacks.

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  1. Invite a few students to describe geographic borders they have seen. For example, how is the entrance to your town/city marked? What about borders between counties? Between states? To provide a variety of examples, fill in student descriptions with the images of borders featured on Wikipedia. Ask why some borders might be more fortified than others and briefly discuss student explanations.
  2. Using an Internet mapping tool, show students where the Israeli city of Modi'in is located. Point out its proximity to the border between Israel and Palestinian territories. Explain that the class is going to watch three brief video clips that show how this border affects the lives of a group of Palestinian men who illegally cross it to work. Focus student viewing with the provided viewing guide.
  3. After they watch the clips, ask students to summarize how the border situation between Israel and Palestinian territories has affected the lives of the men in the film.
  4. To examine other border situations around the world, divide the class into small study groups and have each focus on border relations in a different part of the world. Outline the roles of group members and then assign each group one of the borders identified in the excerpt from the book Hyperborder: The Contemporary U.S.-Mexico Border and its Future that is included on the POV website. Each group should review the information on its assigned border, then prepare a brief presentation that (a) shows the class where the border is on a world map, and (b) addresses as much as possible the following questions:
    • How, why, when and by whom was the border established?
    • Describe the relations between the people and between the governments on each side of the border (for example, "hostile," "cooperative").
    • What strategies are used to secure the border?
    • How are these strategies viewed by those on both sides of the border?
    • How do students think the current management of the border will affect the prosperity or decline of each side of the border?
  5. Have each group present what they prepared to the class.

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Students can be assessed on:

  • Completion of the Viewing Guide
  • Participation in class discussion and group work
  • Quality of group presentations

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  • Use the POV films Al Otro Lado, The Ballad of Esequiel Hernández, and Maquilapolis, to compare and contrast what students have learned about the management of borders around the world with management of the U.S.-Mexican border. Students should then make predictions about what the U.S.-Mexican border will be like 20 years from now. Will it be a border heavily armed by the military, like the North-South Korean border? Will it have a high-tech security wall like the one being built in Israel? Will it be an open border easily crossed by all North Americans, like borders in the European Union? Have students write position papers that incorporate points from their studies about borders.
  • use episodes from POV's Web-only Borders series to explore both the literal and metaphysical borders in our lives. Episodes on migration, the environment and American identity include thought-provoking videos, essays, interactive activities as well as educator resources to support the use of these materials in the classroom.
  • Use the 2003 FRONTLINE/World story, Tracing Israel's Borders to learn more about Israel's project to build a massive wall along borders with Palestinian territories. Then have students create a multimedia update to this story that includes the latest information on the political conflict, how construction of the wall is progressing and other relevant details.
  • Research the ways in which undocumented workers both help and hurt the U.S. economy. Create political cartoons that incorporate these positive and negative effects.

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BBC Country Profile: Israel and Palestinian Territories
The BBC provides historical information and other details related to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

More Palestinian Workers Hide in Israel
This article provides more information on the plight of Palestinians working illegally in Israel.

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These standards are drawn from "Content Knowledge," a compilation of content standards and benchmarks for K-12 curriculum by McRel (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning) at http://www.mcrel.org/standards-benchmarks/.


Standard 22: Understands how the world is organized politically into nation-states, how nation-states interact with one another, and issues surrounding U.S. foreign policy.


Standard 9: Understands the nature, distribution, and migration of human populations on the Earth's surface.
Standard 11: Understands the patterns and networks of economic interdependence on Earth's surface.
Standard 13: Understands the forces of cooperation and conflict that shape the divisions of Earth's surface.

Language Arts

Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media.

World History

Standard 44: Understands the search for community, stability, and peace in an interdependent world.


Cari Ladd, M.Ed., is an educational writer with a background in broadcast journalism, secondary education and media development. Previously, she served as PBS Interactive's Director of Education, overseeing the development of curricular resources tied to PBS programs, the PBS TeacherSource website (now PBS Teachers), and online teacher professional development services. She has also taught in Maryland and Northern Virginia.