Lesson Plans

Reporting and Documenting Your Trip Abroad - 8th Grade

Common Core Standard: 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1: Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


By the end of today, you will be able to describe current issues facing the countries you will be visiting, identify tips from professional journalists that you can use to investigate and record your trip and devise a plan for ultimately submitting a photo and caption to the Pulitzer Center’s DC Study Abroad Photography Contest.

A Note from the Pulitzer Center:

Congratulations on being selected as part of this exciting opportunity to see places so many will never see.  At the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, we dedicate ourselves to supporting journalists, photographers, filmmakers, teachers and students in cultivating a deeper understanding of what is happening in the world. We are thrilled to know that people from our own city will be venturing into so many countries all at the same time. What an incredible opportunity to get a snapshot of what is happening in so many places outside of our country within one summer!

Our goal today is to connect you with professional journalists that have also explored the countries where you are traveling, as well as to prepare you for an exciting photography contest that we are sponsoring for all students traveling this summer.

Let’s get started.


1. On a separate sheet of paper, write your responses to the following questions. Be prepared to share your responses with the group.

  • Where are you going and when?
  • What are three things you know about the country? (nothing is too small)
  • What questions do you have about your country? Think of at least two.
    • Tip: What are some things that interest you that you might want to learn more about? (music, politics, climate, etc.)
  • What are you excited about for your trip? What are you nervous about?
  • Who do you wish could come with you on the trip? How could you share your trip with them?

Professional journalists dedicate their careers to investigating and sharing what is happening in a place. By the end of the day, you will walk away with reporting skills from several journalists that you can use to document your trip, and potentially be one of the winners of the Pulitzer Center photography contest.

Introducing the Lesson:

Observe and Research

1. Observe the following images from journalist Paul Salopek, who is the field now for a project partially funded by the Pulitzer Center. Consider the following:

  • What do you see in the photos?
  • Where do you think they were taken? And why?
  • What do you learn about the place from the photo? What do you want to know?
  • Once you’ve made your observations and guesses, your teacher will let you know where the photos were taken, and when.



These photos are all part of one project, the Out of Eden Walk, which Salopek began in early 2013. His mission is to walk the same 21,000 mile path that modern humans took from Africa to South America over the course of roughly 50,000 years. Paul’s goal throughout the Out of Eden Walk is to take a slow approach to reporting that allows readers to reflect on how the small things we notice as we walk through the world reveal larger international issues.

2. Watch the video "Out of Eden Walk: What Makes a Good Story?" from Paul. Listen for his tips on the following:

  • How do you investigate a place?
  • What tools does Paul use to report?
  • Once you’ve investigated, how do you identify a story to pursue further?

3. Write down at least one tip from Paul that you will use to help you observe and research the place you are traveling.

Documenting your trip

1. Look at the following images from the project Everyday Africa and consider the following:

  • What do you notice is happening in the photo?
  • What do you like about the photo?
  • What do you learn about these places from the photos?

As part of the Everyday Africa project, Pulitzer Center journalists Austin Merrill and Peter DiCampo use photography to capture the everyday lives of different countries in Africa. According to their project’s home page, “Everyday Africa, a collection of images shot on mobile phones across the continent, is an attempt to re-direct focus toward a more accurate understanding of what the majority of Africans experience on a day-to-day basis: normal life.” The project has been adapted and used by countries all over the world, including many of the countries where you will be traveling.

2. Explore tips on how Peter DiCampo uses photography to capture everyday life in the places that he travels by watching the video Everyday Africa: A Photographer’s Toolkit. As you watch, take note of how Peter explains the following photography tips:

  • Look for something surprising or interesting
  • Experiment with the frame
  • Look for a clear moment
  • Take multiple photos. Keep shooting.
  • Get to know your subject.

3. Write down at least two tips you will apply to your own photography while you’re traveling.

Investigating your destination

1. Now that you’ve got tools to help with noticing and documenting your environment while you’re traveling, use current reporting to find out what issues the country you are visiting is facing.

2. Pulitzer Center journalists have traveled to many of the countries you will be visiting to investigate pressing, under-reported issues facing communities in those countries.

3. Explore the projects below by doing the following for each project link:

  • Click on the link to read the project description.
  • Write a one-line summary of the project for your reference.
  • Investigate the project further by looking through the photos and captions for each article in the project.
  • If you have time, pick an article/video/slideshow to investigate further.
  • Be prepared to share at least one interesting fact and photo that you found while exploring the reporting form your country.
Costa Rica Costa Rica: BriBri Culture Under Threat
  Fragile States: The Drug War in Central America

Health Consequences of Ceramic Glazing

Education in Ecuador

  Latin America: Climate Pains
  Bolivia/Ecuador: Indigenous People Confront Global Warming
  Ecuador: Jungle Tensions
Beijing Drinking the Northwest Wind: China's South North Water Transfer Project
  Lifting the Veil on Polluters in China
  Beijing's Rat Tribe
  Desertification in China
  Unrest in the Uyghur Homeland

China's Frayed Perimeter

The Deadly Global War for Sand


The Crackdown: Spanish Protestor Becomes Symbol for Free Expression

  Spain Rights the Wrong of Jewish Exile?
  In Limbo: Kenya’s Exodus to Europe
France Deradicalization Inside French Jails
  Europe's Other Muslim Fringe
  Muslims Youth in Paris: Growing up in 'Other France'
  Crisis of Survival: African Immigrants in France
  France: The Integration of the Roma
  Heat of the Moment
Italy Venetian Artisanship and Climate
  The Catholic Church and the Modern
  The Vatican and the Nuns
  Refugee Boom and Bust: A Global Gold Rush
Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic: Life on the Margins

Heroes of HIV: HIV in the Caribbean

Hispaniola's Unsteady Land


Solar Oven Use in the Dominican Republic

Teenage Pregnancy in the Dominican Republic

Statelessness: A Human Rights Crisis

Mediterranean Coast  
  Surviving Fortress Europe
  Migration, Xenophobia and Epidemics in Europe
  Refugee Boom and Bust: A Global Gold Rush
New York  
  Meet the Central American Women that the United States is Detaining and Deporting
  China's Human Snakes Return

Next Steps:

1. Before you leave:

  • Write down the tips you got from Paul and Peter that you will want to use while traveling to observe, research and document your trip.
  • Make a list of five more questions you have about your country now that you’ve gotten to investigate a little more.
  • Use the skills you learned from Paul and Peter to identify one interesting fact and photo from DC that you would want to share with the people you meet in your country. Think: What do I want the world to know about my world in DC?

*Send your responses to the tasks above to the Pulitzer Center by emailing education@pulitzercenter.org with the subject “Making Global Local”*

2. While you are traveling:

  • Look around. Talk to people. Ask questions.
  • Take a lot of photos and notes to document what you see and observe.

3. When you return: Photography Contest Sponsored by the Pulitzer Center

1. Select one photo that represents an important moment from your trip. Write a caption to accompany your photo that gives your audience more information about  what is happening in the photo. The caption should address the following: 

  • Who is in the photo?
  • What is happening? 
  • Where is this? 
  • When is this being taken 
  • Why is this photo important to you?

Be sure to write your caption in the present tense.

2. Submit your photo and caption to the Pulitzer Center-sponsored photography contest by emailing your photos to education@pulitzercenter.org with the subject headline “DCPS Study Abroad Photography Contest.” 

Submit your photos and captions no later than Friday, September 1, 2017 at 11:59PM ET.

3. Contest winners and their families will be invited to a special reception with a Pulitzer Center journalist in October 2017. Their photos will also be part of a featured blog on the Pulitzer Center website. 

Here are examples from last year's winners:

"Not readily found at your local grocery store, Uvilla (oo-VEE-yah), a small yellow-orange fruit, which grows at high altitudes that is both sweet and tart, is used to make jellies. At Huerto Organico, one can discover the eruption of contrasting flavor and firm texture a welcoming surprise to the palate." Image and text by Kyriea Smith from McKinley Technology High School. Ecuador, 2016.

"This is a photo of all the students who went on the trip making clay. This clay was later shaped and molded as we created pottery. One of our creations was the faceless doll. These dolls are special to the Dominican Republic because they represent the Dominican people. There is not one face for a Dominican, and this I connected with American culture. Looking at the people on our trip, I saw diversity -not only in our appearance but through our minds as well." Image and text by Ife Calhoun from The School Without Walls. Dominican Republic, 2016.

Educator Notes: 

This lesson plan was written to support travel ambassadors leading 8th and 11th grade students from DC public schools on study abroad trips in summer 2017. The lesson introduces students to reporting, research and photography skills from journalists Paul Salopek and Peter DiCampo. It also guides investigation of current reporting from the countries the students will be visiting by presenting reporting from Pulitzer Center journalists. By the end of the lesson, students should send three pieces of information to the Pulitzer Center education department:

  1. Tips from Paul and Peter that students will want to use while traveling to observe, research and document their trips.
  2. A list of five more questions students have about their countries now that they’ve gotten to investigate a little more.
  3. One interesting fact and photo from DC that you students want to share with the people they meet in their countries.

Here are the captions that accompany the photos in this lesson. Students will ask you for these captions after they have made predictions about the photos:

First image:

Herto Bouri, Ethiopia, 10°17'12'' N, 40°31'55'' E

January 24, 2013

“Where are you walking?” the Afar nomads ask.

“North. To Djibouti.” (We do not say Tierra del Fuego. It is much too far—it is meaningless.)
“Are you crazy? Are you sick?

Second image:



Aktau, Kazakhstan, 43°36'9" N, 51°12'57" E

April 25, 2016

“The ferry from Baku, Azerbaijan, kissed the chalky shore of Kazakhstan.”

Lesson facilitation notes:

1. The lesson plan is written for students to be able to explore the resources and reflection exercises independently.

2. Students may need to have an extra sheet of paper, or a blank online document open, to answer the warm up, comprehension and extension questions.

3. The lesson lists several extension exercises. Students could choose one or work through all of the listed exercises.

4. The warm up and post-reading reflections in this lesson could also lead to rich conversations. You may want to work through the lesson along with the students and denote moments for interactive activities.

5. This lesson can be sent to students electronically by clicking "share" once it is published. From the electronic lessons, students can access the Pulitzer Center reporting by clicking on the links under "Resources". When printing the lesson, the text from the resources will print after the student instructions.

6. With questions about this lesson, contact education@pulitzercenter.org

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