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Resource February 3, 2022

Community and Civic Participation

Media file: unnamed-2.jpg
Student work sample from New York City as part of the Michael Freydin's unit, 'Community and Civic Participation.' United States, 2020.

This unit was created by Michael Freydin, a New York City public school teacher and social studies educator, as part of the fall 2020 Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellowship program on Media, Misinformation, and the Pandemic. It is designed for facilitation across five class periods.

For more units created by Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellows in this cohort, click here.


Students will be able to...

Lesson Objectives:

  • Task 1: Analyze the different aspects of individual and community impacts of COVID-19 through reflection and textual analysis
  • Task 2: Evaluate how they themselves, as well as their families, share aspects of the effects of COVID-19 with underreported communities and individuals throughout the U.S.
  • Task 3: Collaborate to interview each other to elicit information and the impacts of COVID-19 in their communities.
  • Task 4: Create a collaborative list of questions to ask the upcoming interview subject.
  • Task 5: Use textual collaborative work and visual art to capture key details from reporting.

Language Objectives:

  • Repeat precise vocabulary related to pandemic, epidemic, and COVID-19.
  • Verbally describe the main ideas from news stories about the effects of COVID-19 on individuals and communities, and relevant points of view.
  • Be encouraged to use causal words (because of, due to, leading to) and descriptive language.

Content Goals: 

  • Learn about the importance of hearing multiple voices when analyzing the effects of COVID-19 on local populations.
  • Be encouraged to delve into a different culture—and into their own—by eliciting information from textual sources, as well as from an informant about their home culture and their experiences during COVID-19.
  • Be guided to look at this global phenomenon from the viewpoint of someone from another culture and place—and to see some similarities and differences in their experiences to students' own experiences.

Skills Goals:

  • Apply historical thinking (complexity, causality, change over time, contingency, context). 
  • Learn about elements of interviewing.

Unit Overview: 

In this unit, student journalists  use Pulitzer Center materials to bring to light underreported stories about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as give voice to experiences that may not be ordinarily covered in other news outlets. Moreover, the goal of this unit is to cultivate empathy and understanding by student journalists for those who surround them in their communities, and to make personal world-to-self connections through the lens of mutual or similar feelings others may have from shared experiences, such as COVID-19.

In order to do so, student journalists will engage with photographic artifacts, personal stories and reporting, as well as prepare interviews with members of their own communities.  Student journalists will seek out common themes, explore how those themes drive them to investigate further, and synthesize a deeper understanding of the communities around them. Finally, student journalists will create artistic or written work to synthesize their understanding of the themes they have encountered in visual, textual, and interpersonal resources.

The role of journalism/journalists is to share not just "breaking news," but stories that we would consider "human interest." The job of student journalists here will be to go beyond dates and figures, and to extend into spaces that we do not commonly see represented in the news. I think it is important for us as educators and students to pay attention to the stories that come from the margins and realize that, in the words of Maya Angelou, "we are more alike, my friend, than we are unalike."  In order to do so, student journalists will cultivate a sense of empathy for their subjects and interviewees.  As an optional extension, teachers may task students with doing actual interviews, focusing on open-ended questioning techniques to elicit longer, more candid answers.

Lessons will begin with a warm-up activity of student journalists practicing visual thinking strategies as applied to images from the Pulitzer Center.  Teachers may wish to ask not only what the students see, but what it is they do not see, and how the scenes before them in the photographs are different than ones they would have expected to find in, say, 2018.  Those differences will lead students to common themes, which will then be explored in the readings that follow.

Running Order: Lesson 1 deals with the central question, "What makes up a community?"  Lesson 2 and Lesson 3 deal with the central question, "How do individual people experience things within the community?" Lesson 4 deals with the central question, "How can art be used to express the effects on the community, but also to affect the community?"  Lesson 5 is an optional extension that asks the students to conduct actual interviews.

Resources for Facilitating this Unit:

Click here for a PDF outlining lesson plans for this unit, including warm-ups, resources, discussion questions, activities, and performance tasks for the unit.

Performance Task:

This unit culminates in a collaborative Padlet where students demonstrate what they have learned about the impacts of COVID-19 on individuals and communities. Students will include images that compare and contrast the experiences of their families and experiences of families from other part of the world. Padlets will include pictures and captions from stories the students have read and/or interviews from family and community members.

Here are examples of padlets created by students from New York City who participated in the unit in fall 2020:

* Padlet 1 from students' analysis of news articles

* Padlet 2 from students' analysis of news articles

Here are examples of art pieces created by students from New York City who participated in the unit in fall 2020.

Assessment and Evaluation:

This unit includes several formative assessments and a note on a summative assessment. More information can be found in the Unit PDF.

Formative Assessments: Daily exit slips will include, but are not limited to, self-assessments that relate to the following questions explored in each daily lesson: 

  • Goal 1: What can I learn from this story?  What questions can I ask about these themes?
  • Goal 2: Now that I know what questions I can ask, whom can I ask these questions?  How would I go about finding a person or source to help me learn about this theme?

Summative Assessment: While no summative assessment is truly necessary for the first lessons, collaborative work may be exhibited through a collaborative Padlet or poster, which will reveal student feelings about the themes discussed in the unit (examples above). Alternatively, teachers may make use of the Lesson 5 Writing Scenario to have students produce a journalistic work where student journalists conduct actual interviews.


navy halftone illustration of a covid virus