Lesson Plans

Evaluating "America's Medical Supply Crisis"

Image by PBS Frontline. United States, 2020.

Image by PBS Frontline. United States, 2020.

Objective:

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to analyze how ideas develop and interact in the news story “America’s Medical Supply Crisis” from PBS FRONTLINE, the Associated Press, and the Global Reporting Centre in order to create projects that increase public awareness about the limited supply of personal protective equipment in the U.S. throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Key Vocabulary:

Asymptomatic, export, import, mortuary kits, national stockpile, novel coronavirus (COVID-19), N95 masks, PPE (personal protective equipment), supply chain, tariff, vaccine, ventilators

Warm-up:

  1. Think about the last time you visited a doctor’s office or hospital. What equipment did the doctors and nurses use to protect you, and themselves, from infection? Make a list.
    • The equipment used by medical providers to prevent exposure to hazards in a workplace is called personal protective equipment (PPE). Click here for the full definition of PPE from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for the U.S. federal government.
  2. Brainstorm responses to the following questions about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19):
    • How is the virus spread?
    • What are some of the ways that people can be affected if they contract the virus?
    • What are ways that people are preventing the spread of the virus? 
    • How might doctors and nurses be interacting with COVID-19 as part of their jobs?
    • If you were a hospital worker right now, what kinds of PPE would you want to protect yourself?

Introducing the Lesson:

In this lesson, you will explore a news story from PBS FRONTLINE, the Associated Press, and the Global Reporting Centre about the limited supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) in U.S. hospitals throughout the coronavirus pandemic. Before watching, reflect on the following questions on your own, or in small groups:

  1. What are all the kinds of personal protective equipment (PPE) that hospitals might need right now? Make a list.
  2. Who do you think is involved in the making and distributing of these items, and how? Create a t-chart like the one below to guide your brainstorm:
    Person/Organization Role                         
       
  3. Who is responsible for making sure that there is enough PPE to support hospitals?
  4. What might have led to the limited supplies of PPE throughout the pandemic?

Review your responses to the questions above, and reflect on the following: What sources might you review, and who would you interview, to investigate the lack of PPE in U.S. hospitals throughout the coronavirus pandemic?

Introducing the Resource: “America’s Medical Supply Crisis” from PBS FRONTLINE, the Associated Press, and the Global Reporting Centre

The journalists who produced this television news story explored the questions above by incorporating several kinds of research. They explored primary source documents, such as studies by researchers and reports by federal officials.  They interviewed experts in business and science, people who are involved in the making and distributing of PPE, government officials, and people who have been affected by the shortage of PPE. 

  1. As you explore the story, respond to the comprehension questions below to track key details. 
    • Comprehension questions: [PDF] [DOC
    • Facilitation note for educators: The comprehension questions above have been broken up into five sections. Sections can be explored by all students, or they can be broken up and reviewed by students in small groups. Each group can be responsible for one section of the film, and then they can use the comprehension questions to summarize their section for the students who explored other sections of the film.
  2. As you watch, also pay attention to the ways that journalists identify and research questions about the supply of PPE in hospitals. The headings below are examples of questions that the journalists explore. Track the way that journalists come up with questions, and explore those questions, by reflecting on the following as you watch:
    • How do the journalists in this film identify questions through interviews and primary source documents?
    • How do the journalists explore questions through interviews and primary source documents?

Be prepared to share your responses after watching the full story.

Discussion Questions:

Review the following questions on your own, in small groups, or as a class:

  1. What details from the story most surprised you? Compare what you learned from the film to your initial predictions about the causes of limited PPE supplies in the United States. 
  2. Given what you learned from the story, what do you think are the best solutions to limited supplies of PPE in the U.S, and what could be done to ensure that there is enough PPE available for potential emergencies in the future?
  3. After watching the story, who do you think should be responsible for ensuring that there is enough PPE available in the U.S., and why?
  4. Why do you think the reporters start and end with the story of Sandy Oldfield? How does your perspective on her story change, if at all, by the end of the story?
  5. How do the journalists in this film identify questions through interviews and primary source documents? What questions do you still have about the production and distribution of PPE after watching the story?
  6. How do the journalists who produced this story explore questions through interviews and primary source documents? Who else do you wish they had interviewed, or what other documents do you wish they had shared in the story, and why?

Extension Activities:

  1. Expository Writing: Local Letters for Global Change
    • Use the following questions to make a list of details from the story:
      • What details from the news story most interested and/or surprised you?
      • Which details would you most want to share with others, and why?
    • Use the list of details to craft a short summary of the story that communicates the issue covered in the news story to someone in your community.
    • Review your summary and consider: How does the issue explored in this story connect to issues you see in your own community? Why might this story matter to you and your community?
    • Evaluate what action(s) you think could be taken by a member of elected office to address this issue. When deciding which elected official to address in your letter, think about who is in the best position to take the action(s) you have identified.
    • Write a brief letter to a member of elected office that communicates the following:
      • What is the issue you learned about in the news story? Summarize the story using details that stood out to you!
      • Why does this issue matter to you and your community?
      • What action(s) do you want this person to take to address this issue.
    • Contest opportunity: Submit your letter by Friday, November 13, 2020 to Pulitzer Center’s Local Letters for Global Change writing contest for students!
       
  2. Visual Art: Advocating for Solutions by Creating Graphics for Social Media
    • Based on your analysis of the news story, make a list of ways you think the United States could increase access to PPE for hospital workers.
    • Identify one way to increase access to PPE, and design a graphic that aims to increase public support for your proposed solution. Use the following questions to guide you as you plan:
      • What is your proposed solution?
      • How can you communicate the problem this solution solves?
      • What details from the news story could you use to communicate the problem, and why your proposed solution will address that problem?
    • Share your graphic by tagging @pulitzercenter and @pbsteachers
       
  3. Research and Report: Investigating Access to personal protective equipment (PPE) in Your Community
    • Create a plan to research the accessibility of PPE for hospitals in your community using the steps below:
      • Make a list of questions you have about the accessibility of PPE in your community. 
      • Identify which questions you can answer using your own research, and begin researching those questions. Try to find primary source documents and/or news stories that address your questions.
      • Using this news story as a guide, make a list of all of the organizations and individuals who may be connected to this issue.
      • Identify which people/organizations you will be able to access most easily, and contact them to set up interviews. Try starting with 1 or 2 people. 
    • Use the tips in this video from journalist Natasha S. Alford to plan and conduct your interviews. Be sure to take note of key details from each interview.
    • Prepare a short essay or presentation that communicates what you learned.
Educator Notes: 

This lesson plan is written to align with the following Common Core Standards:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.2

Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.3

Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

This lesson is written to be student-facing. Notes within the lesson plan also outline how sections can be broken up for work in small groups. The lesson also outlines discussion and brainstorming exercises that students could do independently. For support facilitating this lesson plan, contact education@pulitzercenter.org.

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