Theme: Learning from Different Cultures and Races
Grades: Grades 6-7
As The Cay opens, the threat of World War II has reached the
Caribbean island on which Phillip Enright's American family lives. To
escape danger, 11-year-old Phillip and his mother board a freighter
which is torpedoed by a German submarine. As the ship goes down, Phillip
is struck on the head and wakes up on a raft with an elderly West Indian
sailor named Timothy. Phillip soon loses his sight as a result of the
blow to his head. The two land on an isolated island, where Timothy
provides for their survival. Over several months, Phillip overcomes
his racist upbringing and Timothy trains the boy to be self-reliant.
When a hurricane strikes, Timothy is killed while protecting his friend.
After Phillip survives for another month, he is rescued and carries
with him the legacy of Timothy's survival skills, wisdom, and friendship.
Begin by asking students to read, respond to, and discuss the dedication.
Ask students to share what they know about Martin Luther King, Jr.
Encourage them to consider what the dedication means and what they
might expect from a novel with this kind of dedication.
- Tapping Prior Knowledge: The Caribbean.
Engage students in a brainstorming session, recalling what they know
about the culture, geography, and history of the Caribbean islands.
Encourage students to suggest whatever ideas or information come to
mind through free association. Then, with the class, organize their
ideas into categories and challenge students to make generalizations
about their impressions of the Caribbean.
The Caribbean Mix.
Through Timothy, we learn a little about the culture of the Caribbean.
In this project, students will explore Caribbean culture by examining
its history and roots in South American, indigenous Caribbean, European,
and African cultures. They will also contribute to a class time
- Divide students into pairs or small groups and ask them to choose a West Indian
country or territory to research.
- Have students use the internet or the library to research the history of their
countries from pre-colonial times to today. In particular, ask them to track the
population changes and influence over the centuries. Who lived there first, and who
settled there? Which cultural elements (language, religion, politics, music) are still
- Ask each pair or group to give an oral presentation of their findings. At the end
of the presentation, have them mark a class time line with major events such as the
arrival of various groups and the date of independence (when applicable).
- Together, have the class draw a large map of the entire region. Then have them
draw arrows showing the large migrations from different continents to the different
parts of the West Indies. Display both the finished time line and the map in your classroom.
- Learning About Other Cultures.
Let students travel to the Caribbean via the Internet. Using a search
engine, they can enter the keywords Caribbean, Curaçao,
or Willemstad to find information about recreation, education,
entertainment, government, or vacation possibilities. Have them present
the information in the form of a brochure.
- The Words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Instruct students to find a copy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s
"I Have a Dream" speech. Suggest that they may also want to use the
library, history textbooks, or the internet to research King's life
and ideas. Then, have them write an essay that shows how the speech
and the dedication relate to the plot, characters, and/or theme of
- People of the West Indies.
Tell your students to research a famous person from the West Indies,
such as political leader Fidel Castro, musician Bob Marley, author
Jamaica Kincaid, or baseball great Roberto Clemente. Have them write
a short biography that shows why this person is important.