This companion document to the Issue in Focus provides educators with guidance to incorporate the content into classroom teaching. This component is geared towards grade 6-12 teachers, with connections across subjects and disciplines.
Contents of this Classroom Companion include:
Below are some links to articles and reports at various reading levels that would be appropriate to use with students to learn more about the issues of global poverty and international development. All the articles discuss newly released global poverty statistics from August 2008. To engage in more in-depth discussion about development with older students, World Savvy recommends looking for articles about the work/research of Jeffrey Sachs or William Easterly.
“World Bank Updates Poverty Estimates for the Developing World,” from the World Bank
“Global Poverty Figures Revised Upward,” from One World News
“World Poverty More Widespread,” BBC News
Global Poverty, from NetAid:
UNICEF's information for youth on the Millennium Development Goals
Possible Discussion Questions
- Approximately how many people in the world today live on less than $1.25 a day? What was the previous estimate?
- According to the data from the World Bank, how has the poverty rate changed over the last 25 years?
- Which region of the world has been the least successful in addressing poverty? Why do you think this is? Which country has been the most successful in addressing poverty? Why do you think this is?
- What are the Millennium Development Goals?
- Do some additional research and find out some of the ways the international community is trying to reduce poverty. What do you think should be done?
- Do wealthy nations have a responsibility to donate to the poorest countries in the world? How much? In what ways should they help – simply donating money or food, or helping countries create jobs, businesses, educational opportunities and more for their own citizens?
Lesson Ideas and Curriculum
In this portion of the guide are selected suggestions for engaging activities and curriculum to teach students about this issue – across the disciplines. In addition, there are links to recommended curriculum units that are available to download or purchase from the web.
- This edition of the World Savvy Monitor discusses the most impoverished countries in the world – what economists called Least Developed Countries. Most of these countries are in Africa, and especially Sub-Saharan Africa. Research the recent history of Africa. Why are so many countries in this region impoverished?
- Discuss the connection between geography and poverty. In this issue (see “Global Poverty: Why?”) Uganda and Pakistan are cited as examples of countries where geography has a distinct impact on the economic potential of the country. What factors affect this and what can a country do to offset this? Pretend you are the finance minister of one of these countries, what recommendations would you make to improve the economy given the geographic challenges you face?
- Discuss the particular impact of poverty on women in the world today, and why this is historically so. Look at the example of the Grameen Bank and how their programs have targeted women. What are other ways that the international community can support women to help lift citizens out of poverty?
- Many of the roots of international development today actually began with the Marshall Plan following WWII. What was the Marshall Plan, and how did it function to help countries rebuild after the devastation of WWII? What aspects of the Marshall Plan do you see in the fight to reduce global poverty today?
- Wealthy nations in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which includes the United States, have pledged to donate .7% of their Gross National Income (GNI) each year to fight poverty in the developing world, but so far most have failed to do so. The United States contributed .19% of its GNI in 2007. Do wealthy countries have a responsibility to donate to the developing world? If so, how much? Discuss whether you think the US is contributing its fair share. Also discuss the ways in which wealthy countries should donate. Simply donating money and resources and letting each country decide how best they can be spent? Supporting businesses in poor countries to help provide jobs and investment? Supporting democracy to stabilize fragile countries so that they can support their own citizens? Or other means of support?
- Creative writing – have students step into someone else’s shoes and think about what it would be like to be one of the poorest billion in the world today. Write a diary or journal entry from that point of view. High school students can read the journal recommended below, The Diary of Ma Yan, and discuss the aspects of poverty Ma Yan describes in her journals.
- After reading the microfinance section and learning about the Grameen Bank, have students write detailed proposals for their own small business ideas, making sure to describe the reason for the project, details about the project itself, goals and outcomes expected at the end of the project, and how these will be achieved and measured. Students can then evaluates each other’s proposals, just as members of the Grameen Bank do.
- Check out the “Free Rice” website. This website provides vocabulary quizzes (English language) – for each answer you get right, 20 grains of rice are donated by various sponsors to the World Food Program.
- Research a non-governmental organization (NGO) that is working to fight poverty in the world today. What strategies are they pursuing to fight poverty? Who and where do they help? What are the results of their work? Write a description and profile of this NGO, and have students put on an “NGO fair” for the class or school community.
- Discuss the connection between climate change and poverty, and how combating climate change can also help fight poverty. One recent recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Wangari Maathai, received the prize for her contributions to the environment. Her work in creating what is known as the Green Belt Movement also had a significant impact on economic development and women’s empowerment. Find out more about the Green Belt Movement, and how they work.
- Think about the environment and poverty in your own community – do you see a connection? Do you see examples of poor environmental quality affecting the economy of neighborhoods or cities where you live, or vice versa? Design a community project that would address the root causes of these issues and would improve both the environment and the economy.
- The issue of global poverty provides a wealth of numbers and data that can be used and analyzed in a mathematics classroom in a number of ways. For example, in the Did You Know? section, use the statistics on maternal mortality to teach or review ratios (1 in 16 women in Sub-Saharan Africa and 1 in 3800 women in the developed world die from complications during pregnancy and childbirth.) Or think about what it means to live on $1.25 a day – calculate the amount needed to survive in your community each day.
- Read the Microfinance section of this issue. Use the Grameen Bank model described as a real world model for teaching about simple interest, compound interest, and other credit concepts. Put together a simulation of the Grameen Bank in your own classroom, and have the students design plans for small business initiatives they could create in the school or in the community. Or, have students donate or raise funds for a class donation to an entrepreneur from Kiva’s website, and have them track the money spent, earned, and paid back from that loan throughout the school year.
- Have students put the facts and data from this issue into comparison with the United States. Have them choose one of the Least Developed Countries cited in this issue, and create a side-by-side comparison with the US or another developed country. Have them create a table showing the comparison and create graphs with some of the statistics from the chart. What does the data show? What similarities and differences do they see between the countries? Were they surprised by any of the statistics? (Note: recommended websites for data beyond what is available in this issue: CIA World Factbook and UN Cyberschoolbus)
- Refer to the section of this issue titled “Global Poverty: Who?” and especially the portions discussing the difficulty in collecting data and measuring the world’s poor. Discuss this idea with students. How can data be manipulated and used in different ways? Have students scour current news stories for additional examples of this phenomenon.
- In addition to evaluating data, collecting data can be very difficult. In August 2008, the World Bank released new poverty statistics and revealed that the count of the world’s poor had been undervalued – there are actually 400 million more people living in poverty than the World Bank previously estimated. These new numbers were calculated based on improved methods of collecting data and revisions of the actual cost of living in countries around the world. Read this article from the World Bank and discuss with students. Have students design a survey and collect data in the school or community, and then discuss the process and difficulties they encountered in gathering the data.
- Using the work of Cuban artist, Kcho as an example, explore the history of poverty and migration in Cuba and how it relates to Cuba’s relationships with other countries. Share Kcho’s work with youth and have a discussion about how objects can represent poverty or wealth and why. Ask youth to bring in objects that represent different levels or aspects of class systems and build individual or group installations or sculptures. For info and photos of Kcho’s artwork, see the Universe in Universe website and this article from ARTnews.
- When reporting on poverty, the media often shows graphic images of the lives of the poor. Discuss the impact and the purpose of such imagery. Have you ever seen photographs where the subjects seem to be exploited by the camera? Or, do you think the photographer is providing evidence of essential information about our world today? What responsibility, if any, does a photographer have to his or her subjects? What have you seen, if anything, that shares the stories of the poor in a comprehensive or “truthful” way?
Recommended Curriculum Units
Oxfam America: Fast for a World Harvest
This annual event sponsored by Oxfam America provides a simulation of poverty and world hunger today, and has been implemented in hundreds of schools around the country each fall. Oxfam provides a full guide for the simulation as well as some curriculum materials.
Educators Guide to the Millennium Development Goals
This complete curriculum, developed by One World Youth Project and TakingItGlobal, teaches about the eight objectives that make up the MDGs and what is being done to achieve them, as well as what youth can do to play a part.
This is a great resource for teaching strategies dealing with poverty and globalization in our world today. Rethinking Globalization alerts readers to the challenges we face – from child labor to sweatshops, from global warming to destruction of the rainforests – and also spotlights the enormous courage and creativity of people working to set things right. This essential resource includes role plays, interviews, poetry, stories, background readings, hands-on teaching tools, and much more. Also available from Amazon.
Dilemmas of Foreign Aid: Debating U.S. Priorities, Policies, and Practices
From the Choices Program, this curriculum evaluates the kinds of foreign aid, trade benefits, and other assistance the US provides to other countries. Students are encouraged to debate the prospects for exporting the American values of democracy, free enterprise, and human rights. Includes both teacher and student books. Covers the same topics as earlier editions, but offers updated information, and comparing some of the graphs and foreign aid priorities pre 9/11 and post-9/11 might be really interesting.
Is Globalization a Dirty Word?
This lesson makes use of a 2002 study conducted by the World Bank, titled “Globalization, Growth, and Poverty: Building an Inclusive World Economy,” which makes the case for globalization as a method for easing poverty in the world’s poor countries. Using the report, and other media related to the report, including video, a PowerPoint slide show, and a press release, students determine the benefits of globalization and also to consider the costs of globalization.
Heifer International Curriculum
Heifer provides services and assistance for economic development around the world, and is perhaps best known for their program where donors can purchase a goat, cow, or other livestock for families in the developing world. Their website features an education section, and a children’s book is available to illustrate the economic benefits of the livestock purchase program. The educational resources are good for upper elementary and middle school students.
Banker to the Poor: Micro-lending and the Battle Against World Poverty by Muhammad Yunus
It began with a simple $27 loan. After witnessing the cycle of poverty that kept many poor women enslaved to high-interest loan sharks in Bangladesh, Dr. Muhammad Yunus lent money to 42 women so they could purchase bamboo to make and sell stools. In a short time, the women were able to repay the loans while continuing to support themselves and their families. With that initial eye-opening success, the seeds of the Grameen Bank, and the concept of microcredit, were planted. This book tells that story and how the Grameen Bank has grown.
The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for our Time by Jeffrey Sachs
Celebrated economist Jeffrey Sachs has a plan to eliminate extreme poverty around the world by 2025, and describes his plan in this popular book. His focus is on the one billion poorest individuals around the world who are caught in a poverty trap of disease, physical isolation, environmental stress, political instability, and lack of access to capital, technology, medicine, and education.
The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good by William Easterly
Easterly, another leading development economist, whose views are often seen as being in opposition to Sachs, contends in this books that today’s global poverty has been worsened by failed policies of the West, who assumed they knew what was best for the world.
Globalization and its Discontents by Joseph Stiglitz
His book clearly explains the functions and powers of the main institutions that govern globalization – the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the World Trade Organization – along with the ramifications, both good and bad, of their policies. He strongly believes that globalization can be a positive force around the world, particularly for the poor, but only if the IMF, World Bank, and WTO dramatically alter the way they operate, beginning with increased transparency and a greater willingness to examine their own actions closely.
Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen
Winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics, Sen argues that open dialogue, civil freedoms and political liberties are prerequisites for sustainable development. He tests his theory with examples ranging from the former Soviet bloc to Africa, but he puts special emphasis on China and India.
The Diary of Ma Yan by Ma Yan
This is the real diary of Ma Yan, a 13-year-old schoolgirl from the extremely impoverished Ningxi region in northwestern China. Originally written with a ballpoint pen purchased in lieu of two weeks' worth of food, these diaries detail the day-to-day life of a girl determined to get an education despite crippling poverty. This book was first published in Europe, after Ma Yan's mother pressed three notebooks containing the diary into the hands of a visiting foreign journalist. With photographs.
Iqbal, A Novel by Francesco D’Adamo
Grade 4 and up: This fictionalized account of the brief life of Iqbal Masih is gripping and illustrates the plight of children bonded into labor as rug weavers in Pakistan, as well as how Iqbal manages to escape, free other children, and inspire so many more.
Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier
This book, for ages 4-8, is based on the true account of one family who received aid from Heifer Project International, a charitable organization that donates livestock to poor communities around the world.
Life and Debt
This searing documentary examines how the policies of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other aid organizations have changed the Jamaican economy over the past quarter of a century, leaving the local people to struggle in poverty and work in sweatshops. Author Jamaica Kincaid narrates. Available from Amazon and Netflix.
Time for School – The Global Education Crisis
This documentary from PBS discusses primary education around the world, and the quest to provide it to all children, per the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), by 2015. The film follows seven kids in Japan, Kenya, Benin, Brazil, Romania, Afghanistan, and India as they enter school for the first time. Additional information and accompanying lessons on PBS website.
Commanding Heights: The Battle for the World Economy
This groundbreaking PBS series explores our changing world - the great debate over globalization and the future of our society. It combines stunning film footage with dramatic stories and extraordinary interviews with world leaders and thinkers from twenty different countries. It consists of three volumes: The New Rules of the Game, The Agony of Reform, and The Battle of Ideas. Available from Amazon and Netflix. Has accompanying PBS website with lessons on economic fundamentals.
Where is the World Going, Mr. Stiglitz?
Simply and eloquently, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz explains how the world's economy works. Drawing not only from his academic expertise but also from time spent on the ground in countries around the world, Stiglitz offers fresh thinking about the questions and challenges facing all of us – from well-off Americans to those mired in Third World poverty. This five part series will appeal to experts and non-experts alike, as Stiglitz's clear and concise reasoning about the complexities of globalization is revealed. Available from Amazon and Netflix.
Websites and Multimedia
This website features some amazing statistics and interactive graphs about our world today. Choose the indicators you want to see – education, poverty, health, environment, trade, and many more. There are also videos and podcasts that could be good to show in high school classrooms – there is a great video about 'debunking myths of the third world.'
This website features a number of thematic maps, illustrating important global statistics. See the link below to find global maps focused on poverty statistics.
This interactive website has a story and simulation for kids about microfinance. It’s good for upper elementary kids and middle school students, and has a lot of ideas for related teaching activities, and games/quizzes.
Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person microlending website, enabling individuals to lend directly to entrepreneurs in the developing world. Kiva links potential lenders with existing microfinance institutions who have access to micro-creditors seeking small business loans. Through the internet, a personal and transparent connection is established; and the individual lender can see how funds are being used and the impact of their dollars on the ground.
YouthGive is a non-profit organization that works to engage children and youth in philanthropy, and to instill lifelong habits of generosity and civic engagement. Parents can open a youth account online for any amount – $1, $20, or $100 – and then from a menu (written by youth participants themselves who map, interview, and profile organizations), the youth donor can explore issues and connect with non-profit organizations working around the world.
In My Name – YouTube
This new channel from YouTube focuses on global poverty and the Millennium Development Goals, and invites viewers to upload their own videos joining the call to end poverty.
Activities described in this Classroom Companion correspond to the following national standards from McREL (Mid-Continent Research for Education and Learning).
World History Standards:
- Era 9: The 20th Century Since 1945: Promises and Paradoxes
- Understands how post-World War II reconstruction occurred, new international power relations took shape, and colonial empires broke up
- Understands the search for community, stability, and peace in an interdependent world
- Understands major global trends since World War II
World History Topics:
- Economic conditions and society
- Economic development and growth
- Global economic interdependence and human society
- International diplomacy and relations
- Tension and conflict in the contemporary world
- Understand and know how to analyze chronological relationships and patterns
- Understands the historical perspective
- What is Government and What Should it Do?
- Understands the sources, purposes, and functions of law, and the importance of the rule of law for the protection of individual rights and the common good
- Impact of world economic, technological, and cultural developments
- Impact of world political, demographic, and environmental trends
- International diplomacy and relations
2. Knows the location of places, geographic features, and patterns of the environment
4. Understands the physical and human characteristics of place
6. Understands that culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions
7. Knows the physical processes that shape patterns on Earth's surface
13. Understands the forces of cooperation and conflict that shape the divisions of Earth's surface
- Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
- Gathers and uses information for research purposes
- Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process
- Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts
- Understands Earth's composition and structure
- Understands relationships among organisms and their physical environment
- Populations and Ecosystems
- Science, Technology, and Society
3. Uses basic and advanced procedures while performing the processes of computation
6. Understands and applies basic and advanced concepts of statistics and data analysis
9. Understands the general nature and uses of mathematics