I will not let the kids of “Forgotten Schools” be forgotten

I will not let the kids of “Forgotten Schools” be forgotten

My parents bring school supplies and health necessities to rural China. “The Forgotten Schools of Ghost Town” is my calling, too. Four students walk up a barren mountain with dusty backpacks on their shoulders. We see them every year. The four are always...

Student reporter Luna Lee of Miss Porter’s School in the U.S. state of Connecticut gives a heart wrenching account of how children in rural parts of China willingly trek long distances in harsh conditions for an education housed in places few people would consider a school. Her first person story about a nonprofit run by her parents to help these schools and these young people demonstrates how in many places education is a privilege that people don’t take for granted.

Exercise: Students should consider whether in their own country education is considered a privilege or a human right. Have students look at this map of data from UNESCO of primary school completion rates and determine in what countries the fewest and largest percentages of students who go on to secondary education.

Tory chaos shakes UK unity and stirs mockery abroad

Tory chaos shakes UK unity and stirs mockery abroad

Britain’s Conservative Party won a landslide in 2019. Now the Tories and their elite are the butt of jokes overseas as polls point to possible humiliation. 10 Downing Street, the official residence and office of the British Prime Minister, in London, 20 October...

Politics can seem boring to some young people. But in Britain it is anything but. Correspondent Barry Moody takes us through the musical chairs of British prime ministers and shows how political divisions inside the British government over Brexit, taxes and the economy could lead to a breakup of the United Kingdom. 

Exercise: Create teams of five. Each team should choose one member to be prime minister. The other four students should each take on the roles of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. They should each do some basic research on their region’s current relationship with the British government. The student who is the prime minister will research and consider the importance of having these countries united into one government. Together they will create a poster that explains the individual identities of the four countries and how they benefit or are disadvantaged by their subordination to a united government.

Decoder: To battle climate change, go local and be vocal

Decoder: To battle climate change, go local and be vocal

Climate change requires global, systemic action if we are to save Earth. But each of us can help bring pressure for the painful changes needed. Greta Thunberg at a climate strike outside the United Nations in New York, 30 August 2019 (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews) This...

Can one person’s actions really help save our planet? The news on climate science is often bleak but Correspondent Jeremy Lovell tells us why we should each think of ourselves as one of a billion climate activists environmental advocate Greta Thunberg seeks to mobilize. And together we can push governments and corporations for changes that can save our planet.

Exercise: Have students come up with a short list of steps they think your national or regional government should and could take to fight climate change. Have each student write a letter to the president or your governor asking them to push for legislation that would accomplish this.

Could Ukraine war spread to space and endanger satellites?

Could Ukraine war spread to space and endanger satellites?

Despite conflicts on Earth, satellites orbit in peace. But use of Elon Musk’s Starlink to aid Ukraine has Russia looking to the sky with hostile eyes. A rocket booster carrying three Gonets-M satellites and the first Skif-D satellite of the Sfera programme lifts...

While all kinds of international conflicts occur on the ground, up in space things have been pretty peaceful. We depend on peace in the skies because such things as social media, multiplayer video games, Google classrooms and Zoom sessions rely on satellites bouncing signals across the earth. Correspondent Tira Shubart tells us why tensions on the ground in Ukraine could disturb the tacit and explicit agreements over satellites in the sky. 

Exercise: Let’s imagine that each student has been hired to draw up an international agreement to govern and protect satellites that need to cross the skies over international borders. What are the five most important considerations that would have to be included in this treaty? Some things to consider are: The citizens in every country want fast and reliable Internet; people want their privacy protected; and countries are concerned about the possible military use of satellites.

Being a good global citizen means using inclusive language

Being a good global citizen means using inclusive language

English may be the world’s lingua franca, but it can be full of bias. The words we choose can make us better global citizens — or destroy understanding. The Tower of Babel, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (Wikimedia Commons) “Language is the road map of a...

Global events are often reported from a U.S.-centric or Europe-centric perspective. Articles from the United States are peppered with analogies from baseball or American football, or are derived from a history of slavery. Stories from British papers often include language from colonial times. Correspondent Jeremy Solomons teaches us that to be a good global citizen, we need to take a look at the words we use and make sure they can be understood and accepted by people in different regions and from different demographics. Solomons shows us what it means to develop a global mindset.

Exercise: Solomons provides examples of words that might be problematic on a global level, such as “break a leg” and “come out of left field.” Can your students think of expressions that are unique to their country or region, and can they find a way to say the same thing in ways that might be better understood by someone from a different country and culture?

Decoder: With Artemis, US aims to return humans to the Moon

Decoder: With Artemis, US aims to return humans to the Moon

It’s been 50 years since humans walked on the Moon. Now, the U.S. is launching a costly program to return there and possibly pave the way to Mars. NASA’s Space Launch System rocket with the Orion spacecraft aboard at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida,...

Five decades after humans walked on the Moon, the U.S. space agency NASA is leading an international endeavor to return there at a cost of $93 billion. Correspondent Natasha Comeau decodes the Artemis project, a series of missions to build a long-term human presence on the Moon. The 21 nations that have signed the Artemis Accords for space exploration reflect today’s political divisions. Missing from the collaboration are China and Russia, which plan to build a lunar station of their own. It was competition with the then Soviet Union in the 1960s that spurred the first space race and resulted in the historic 1969 moon landing. Now, a host of private corporations are funding their own space initiatives.

Exercise: In teams, have students form their own private space exploration company. Were they able to successfully build their own rocket that could take people into space, what would be their mission? What would they hope to get out of their space exploration ventures? Have each team come up with three things they think space missions could accomplish.

I wish I had thanked Mikhail Gorbachev for changing my life

I wish I had thanked Mikhail Gorbachev for changing my life

I was in Berlin in 1989 when the Wall came down. I wish I had thanked Mikhail Gorbachev for changing my life and letting me witness history. The author perched on a Berlin underground station entrance in the fall of 1989 (Photo courtesy of Elaine Monaghan) In June...

In 1989, Elaine Monaghan found herself in Germany. She would spend two decades covering international affairs for the Reuters news service, but the night she witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall changed her life. Reflecting on that event, she marks the death of Mikhail Gorbachev, then leader of the Soviet Union, whose decisions contributed to the end of the Cold War and the disintegration of the USSR. Monaghan tells us that “even if you don’t always grasp everything that is happening around you, if you follow an unmarked, difficult path, opting not to resist the pull of history, walls can come tumbling down.” She offers youth an important reminder that, with strife all around us, they can still make a difference.

Exercise: The Berlin Wall was a concrete barrier that separated East and West Berlin, dividing two countries – the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic. Can your students think of a wall today, either physical or geographic, that acts as a political divide? What might bring that wall down?

Buried underpants and tea bags help scientists evaluate soil

Buried underpants and tea bags help scientists evaluate soil

Swiss citizens are burying cotton underpants and tea bags in their gardens and fields to help scientists assess the quality of soil in the Alpine nation. (Photo courtesy of Beweisstück Unterhose) Bury underpants and tea bags in your garden? Why not, thought scientist...

Student reporter Luis Eberl of Realgymnasium Rämibühl in Zurich, Switzerland, interviewed scientist Marcel van der Heijden of the University of Zurich about an experiment to find ways to slow down or prevent soil deterioration caused by erosion, construction, pesticides and drought. The project invites citizens to test their own soil by planting tea bags and cotton underpants – two common household items – and then testing the level of deterioration. Eberl shows how scientists are engaging everyday people in climate change projects to demonstrate that individuals’ small actions can lead to global solutions.

Exercise: Interviewing an expert for a story is a great way to get information to readers that might not be reported elsewhere. Have students think of an issue that would be important to report and see if they can identify an expert who might be good to interview for a story on that issue.

Gorbachev: Reflections on a statesman who shaped history

Gorbachev: Reflections on a statesman who shaped history

Alternately revered and vilified, Mikhail Gorbachev shaped history as the last Soviet leader. Our correspondents recall his impact and legacy. Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev waves during a military parade marking the anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution, Red...

At a time of sharp division between the West and Russia, News Decoder remembers an era when another intractable divide was bridged. At the height of the Cold War, two adversaries, U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, forged an agreement to reduce nuclear arms. Alternately revered and vilified, Gorbachev shaped history as the last Soviet leader and the one whose decisions helped lift the Iron Curtain. To mark Gorbachev’s death, News Decoder correspondents who covered the collapse of the Soviet Union examine how the former Soviet leader’s legacy has evolved over time.

Exercise: Gorbachev left an ambiguous legacy. He is heralded in much of the West but viewed less favorably in Russia. Can your student’s identify other historical or contemporary figures who are viewed in a contradictory way? What’s at the root of such contradictory perspectives?

In Africa, COVID spurs TV shows to teach kids about science

In Africa, COVID spurs TV shows to teach kids about science

COVID-19 has given media firms in Africa a chance to create TV shows that teach science to children and challenge outdated gender norms. (Photo courtesy of N*Gen) COVID-19 lockdowns put the brakes on learning for children across Africa and around the world. It also...

COVID-19 has kept many students around the world at home, setting back their intellectual development despite efforts to pivot to virtual learning. In Africa, creators using media to educate youth have taken advantage of the situation and a widespread lack of Wi-Fi to create TV shows that teach children about science and sexual health while challenging gender stereotypes. Correspondent Susanne Courtney has spoken to experts in science and entertainment to explore a silver lining in the otherwise dire pandemic.

Exercise: Ask your students to identify a positive outcome in their community stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. It could be a business that took advantage of the situation to pivot or increase sales, or new investments in hitherto neglected areas.

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