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Pulitzer Center Update March 30, 2016

News Bites and Lesson Plan of the Week: World Water Day

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In places around the world, supplies of groundwater are rapidly vanishing. As aquifers decline and...

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Multiple Authors
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Image by Steve Elfers. United States, 2015.

Dear Educators,

This week, we are excited to celebrate World Water Day with a water-themed newsletter! Here are our featured lesson plans and updates on the Pulitzer Center's education events:

News Bite Lesson: World Water Day

In honor of World Water Day, which was March 22nd, this week's News Bite lesson plan asks students to investigate four Pulitzer Center reporting projects that cover international water issues. Through writing and discussion, students also reflect on how they use water, and how the issues they are reading about connect directly to their lives.

Featured Lesson: Swimming and Water Safety

As students prepare for their spring breaks, engage them in conversations about water safety with this lesson from Tracy Crowley, Information Literacy Specialist at Community Consolidated School District 21 in Wheeling, Illinois. Featuring reporting by Pulitzer Center Executive Director Jon Sawyer and Contributing Editor Kem Sawyer, this lesson asks students to use their analysis of Pulitzer Center reporting to develop plans for improving swimming safety regulations.

Education News:Vanishing Groundwater filmmaker Steve Elfers asks D.C. Students, "How do you tell a story about something you can't see?"

Steve Elfers, Pulitzer Center grantee and USA Today Managing Editor of Multimedia, met with nearly 500 students in eight D.C. schools last week to discuss the groundwater reporting project he embarked on last year with Desert Sun journalist Ian James.

The students began by reflecting on where their freshwater comes from and how they use it. They then brainstormed which countries could be dependent on groundwater and predicted how those communities could be affected by depleted groundwater reserves.

Steve began with a question: "When a river goes down, you can see it. When the lake goes down, you can see it. When the level of water under your feet goes down, you can't see it. How do you tell a story about something you can't see?"

Elfers proceeded to screen an early version of the documentary Pumped Dry: The Global Crisis of Vanishing Groundwater. The film reports on the impact that depleted groundwater resources are having on communities in California, India, Kansas, Morocco and Peru. The film will be screening at film festivals throughout the U.S. starting later this month, including the D.C. Environmental Film Festival this week, but students saw an exclusive pre-festival cut of the film. After each section, students dove into questions about the film's subjects and Steve's process as a reporter.

"How long has this been a problem," a sixth-grade student at Alice Deal Middle School asked. "Where did you get the inspiration to work on this?"

"Ian James is a reporter I work with. He knew that the satellite data existed, but nobody was looking at it to see how people were being affected around the world," Elfers responded.

"Is there anything we can do to help," a freshman Spanish student a Woodrow Wilson high school asked.

Elfers replied, "You'll all be in positions to vote on legislation before you know it."

As a closing for each visit, students were asked to reflect on what parts of the presentation were sticking with them the most.

"I was surprised by how critical freshwater is to those people," a sophomore at Friendship Tech Prep Academy responded.

Another student closed with the question, "If we're running out of water, why don't we stop pumping?"

"Imagery is a powerful thing," said an eighth grade science student at D.C. International School concluded. "The images show how things that don't seem important really impact the world."

Connect the "Vanishing Groundwater" project to your classroom with this lesson plan built using the Pulitzer Center Lesson Builder.

If you are interested in connecting your students to a Pulitzer Center journalist in person, or over Skype, email [email protected]. A member of the education team would also be happy to reach out to you directly.

Featured Project for Students: "Youth Fighters in Syria" by Alice Su

Click here to learn more about journalist Alice Su and her reporting on youth fighters in Syria. Create your own lesson plan using Alice's work with our Lesson Builder.

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