Lesson Plans

Conviction Driven 'Miracles'

Your limits are in your head. Image by Erin Wilson, courtesy of Outside.

Your limits are in your head. Image by Erin Wilson, courtesy of Outside.

Warm Up

  • Put two pictures on the board/screen side by side
  • The pictures should be “celebrity mug shots”
    1. Choose celebs that your students know
    2. Famous crimes/criminals that are recent or memory jarring
    3. Make sure these pictures were taken as mug shots
  • Ask them what they see on the board
    1. Ask “What words or thoughts come to mind immediately?”
    2. Go around the room or call out to students etc.
    3. Hear what they have to say/ let them explain what comes to mind
    4. They may say that celebrity X was convicted of a crime (if so, skip the next bullet)
  • See if they know what the two celebrities have in common?
    1. Try to make it so the two celebs only have one thing in common — that they got arrested for something and were convicted
  • Then let them know that they BOTH were convicted/ have felony convictions (hence the mug shot)
  • Now you can either ask your students what they think that means or give them the criminal definition of “conviction” as it appears in the dictionary (it’s up to you)
    1. Ask for second interpretations of the word or initial reactions to this word "conviction"
    2. See what you get 


Now shift to the definition of a conviction related to this resource: a strong persuasion or belief

Warm Up Exercise

  • Have them jot down something they have a conviction or strong belief about
  • Then explain why they feel so strongly and how the conviction came about
  • Discuss these answers

Introducing the work

  • Tell them that Wim Hof broke the Guinness World Record for swimming underwater in ice and has accomplished feats one would think is impossible
  • His unshakeable belief or conviction that he could do these things helped train his body to do so

Comprehension--- Have students think about these questions while reading

  • What is a Placebo?
  • What is the Placebo effect?
  • How do we use this effect?
  • Did Wim or other characters in the story use Placebo?
  • Define the term “Headroom”.
  • How is it used in the context of the story?
  • How was Wim Hof able to accomplish such extraordinary feats? Was headroom involved?

Discussion--- For after reading and answering comprehension questions

  • What role, if any, does science play in the effect the brain has on one’s body and performance?
  • Are drugs, placebos, rituals really useful in boosting performance?
  • How much of a factor does one’s personal confidence or expectation of oneself play in reaching beyond limits?

Extension Activities

  • Give the students a separate assignment, if there’s time in class have them do it then, but it can be homework also. Tell them to write a letter to their former selves, a year or 5-10 years back depending on the age of your students. They must have in mind a feat (some goal or challenge) they failed to attain. In this letter, the students need to tell their younger self how they could’ve/should’ve attained that goal (athletic or otherwise) after having read Vance’s work. They also need to set specific future goals for themselves that they wish to attain.
  • Note these questions in mind while writing: What did the story of Wim Hof teach them about attaining success? How did it alter their thinking? How could knowing X have helped them in the past? What changes internal/external would have been necessary in accomplishing that goal? What will they do to accomplish similar goals (or goals in general) in the future? --- think hard and use vocabulary from the text.

Long-Term Extension 

  • Have them turn the letter into you (don’t ever look at the letter). Bring in envelopes and have students stamp and address them to the house they currently live in. Keep their letters and hold them until the end of the year (if it is a high school course keep until the end of their senior year).
  • Mail the letters back to the students at the end of the year.

Students will have to hold themselves accountable to attaining their future goal/goals from the letter, and see if they were able to attain them after using techniques and philosophies learned from The Science Behind Miracles.

Educator Notes: 

Objective: To think critically about science and if it enhances our ability to perfrom “miraculous” feats

After reading Erik Vance's piece, The Science Behind Miracles, your students should understand that miracles are in fact all in one’s head, and expectation can become reality through one's belief from within. Before reading see if they first know what a conviction is though. Show two photos of convicted celebrities i.e. Robert Downey Jr and Kodak Black.

Then define for them what conviction is in another context, and have them tell you something they have a strong belief or conviction in. After this light warm up proceed to the steps in the lesson using The Science Behind Miracles.

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