Ben Linder Mystery

Mural of Ben Linder unicycling in El Cua painted on a wall in BarrioMonseñor Lezcano in Managua, Nicaragua, 1990

Introduction | Goals | Quest(ion) | Background | Individual Roles | Group Process | Feedback | Conclusion | Glossary

The Ben Linder Mystery is an activity for students to use Internet resources to learn about the politics and history behind the death of Ben Linder. As an American who was represented in Nicaraguan murals including the one above his life and death are an interesting entry point for American students studying the Nicaraguan Sandinista Revolution. Much of the material for the activity can be found in the book, The Death of Ben Linder. Students answer questions as they take on different roles (as members of the press) and in the end they can create a publication of their own.

Further questions about the Ben Linder Mystery before you begin...
Why it is important to study Ben Linder?
Why is this a WebQuest?
What is the purpose of this activity?
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To find out who Ben Linder was read this excerpt from the Washington Post.

ON THE DAY OF BENJAMIN LINDER'S funeral, hundreds of chanting people marched with his casket in Matagalpa, a Nicaraguan city in the country's northern war zone. The Linder family walked near the head of the crowd, dazed by the heat of the day and the event. Just hours before, the Linders had stepped off a plane from Oregon into Nicaragua's fervid April sun, and they now found themselves suddenly embroiled in this noisy, equally fervid tribute to Ben, the first American killed by the contras.

Goals   Goals of this activity:
  • Increasing sensitivity through a personal approach. Students are encouraged to stand in someone else's shoes through role play.
  • Increasing critical thinking through asking students to examine several sources about the same event and not just relay on the account of one.
  • Developing a critical mind through encouraging students to question political policy
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Who was Ben Linder and what happened to him?

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As a group, the team should look through these websites to get an overview of who Ben Linder was and how the issues surrounding his death.

Ben Linder Sites:
The Death of Ben Linder

Book Review:
The Death of Ben Linder The Story of a North American in Sandinista Nicaragua By Joan Kruckewitt

The Oregonian:
Longtime Portland activist David Linder dies at 75 The pathologist's mission to help the poor in Nicaragua, where his son, Ben, was killed by Contras in 1987, will continue, family members say

U.S. Relations with the Sandinistas:
CIA Report on the U.S. Foreign Relations with the Sandinistas

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Role: Goal:
Photojournalist to examine evidence from photographs about Ben Linder
International press to review what the international press reported about Ben Linder.
National press to review what the national press reported about Ben Linder.
Local press to review what the local press reported about Ben Linder.
Diary archivist to review Ben Linder's personal documents including parts of his diary
Government agent to write about the U.S. position on the Contras and their mission

Now that students have chosen which roles they will take, they are ready to become an expert. Dossiers have been prepared for each role. These contain guided instructions that should help you

Click on the name of your role to receive the Dossier

Photojournalist Local Press
International Press Diary Archivist
National Press Government Agent

Using Primary Source Materials A Guide for Students
How to View a Photograph A Guide for Students
Group Process
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  The student publication could be created in a Word Processing program (such as Microsoft Word), a page layout program (such as ClarisWorks or Pagemaker), or could be a website.
An effective publication could include at least
  • one editorial essay
  • a bibliography
  • and can answer the following questions after examining the evidence to demonstrate an understanding of the content.
  1. Who was Ben Linder and what happened to him?
  2. Where and when did it happen? What kind of place was El Cuá?
  3. What were the conditions like for him (and others) working on his project in Nicaragua?
  4. Who were the Sandinistas? What was their relationship to Ben Linder?
  5. Who were the Contras? What was their relationship to Ben Linder?
  6. Define the terms: sandinista, contra, "freedom-fighters"
  7. How can we benefit by studying the death of Ben Linder?
  8. What does studying this topic mean to you personally?
  9. Imagine for a moment that you work with Ben at a co-op in Nicaragua. What would that experience be like?


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  The methods below suggested how the goals mentioned earlier can be assessed. The forms of assessment can be used to assess learning of the content as well as the affective learning goal of increasing cultural understanding.

Students' Increased Understanding of Content
Suggested Forms of Assessment
    Student Self-Assessment
  • Through having to explain their perspective to another, students self-assess their own understanding.

    Student Peer-Assessment
  • Students assess each other's understanding of their perspectives through their discussions while role-playing

    Teacher Assessment
  • Teachers can use the rubric to assess the student publication.
    Evaluation Rubric
  • Teachers may use this suggested rubric to assess student collaboration
    Student Collaboration Rubric
  • You may also ask your students to participate in creating a rubric.
    How to create a rubric WITH your students. Read here about empowering students through negotiable contracting to draft rubrics for authentic assessment

    Why rubrics?
    Read here about why rubrics are used.

    Students' Increased Cultural Sensitivity
  • To evaluate how students are increasing their cultural understanding or awareness through this activity, pay close attention to the language students use in communicating with each other, in their presentations, and in their brochures. The best way to measure their increased sensitivity is through knowing your students and finding out what their feelings are before the activity begins. You may start by asking students what their perceptions are of Nicaragua at first and then follow through by asking students to write a letter to a Nicaraguan (muralist, teacher, etc.). Once our e-pals area is complete, there will be contacts in Central America for students to send their letters to bringing authenticity to the task of letter writing.

    For this activity it would be appropriate to ask students to imagine they work with Ben at a co-op in Nicaragua. What would that experience be like?

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We hope that by being a part of the Linder Mystery students gained an insider's perspective of what it would be like to live and work in Nicaragua during the Sandinista Revolution.

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anti- Sandinista guerrillas funded by the U.S. Government
a collection of papers containing detailed information about a particular person or subject (usually a person's record)
FSLN Sandinista National Liberation Front (in Spanish, Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional)


people working together for the benefit of all the people, and not just for one person in particular
a Nicaraguan guerrilla group that overthrew Anastasio Somoza Debayle in 1979; named for CÈsar Augusto Sandino, a hero of Nicaraguan resistance to U.S. military occupation (1927-33)