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.

World