Finding Meme-spiration with Public Domain and Creative Commons Images Lesson Plan

This teaching resource has been submitted by Maggie Murphy and Jenny Dale at UNC Greensboro.

United States Department of Agriculture, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons



Learning Level


Short Overview

This workshop lesson plan was designed by two academic librarians with first- and second-year undergraduate college/university students in mind. The content about public domain images and fair use (the latter is only briefly mentioned) focuses on U.S. copyright law, but this could be substituted for local intellectual property legal frameworks in other countries or regions. The lesson plan is structured as a Google Slides presentation. We have included both a PDF outline of slides with presenter notes and a suggested script as well as a link to the presentation, which can be copied and adapted.

The original workshop on which the lesson plan is based was offered as part of an interdisciplinary co-curricular library programming series centered on memes. However, the workshop could also be used as a class session within a number of disciplines, including art history/visual culture, media studies, studio arts and design, history, creative writing, and communications. In addition, the basic lesson plan could be adapted for for high/secondary school students or even a teen workshop in a public library setting. While we did not envision a maximum number of participants, the workshop will probably work best with between 5 and 20 participants to accommodate for discussion and share-out. For a larger group, you may want to have participants break into small groups for discussion and share-out, rather than working with the entire group as a whole.

We taught the original workshop as a team of two instructors so that we could switch-off during the presentation and circulate during the meme-making activity, but it could be facilitated solo with a small group. We recommend that you plan for a minimum of an hour for this lesson plan, with 75 minutes being preferred, although the time allotted to the discussion questions, hands-on meme-making activity, and final share-out can be adjusted up or down as necessary.

Learning Outcomes

-Understand key ethical, legal, social, and economic issues surrounding the creation and use of images and visual media for memes
-Find and access needed open-access images and visual media for meme-making effectively and efficiently
-Articulate basic elements of (United States) public domain and Creative Common frameworks

Resources Required

-internet access

Workshop participant:
-computer (preferred) or mobile device
-internet access


Download the Activity (PDF)

Useful Links

Presentation (Google Slides) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.