Students strive to understand famine’s causes and recommend changes for the future by engaging in a project-based learning activity. They work with the International Famine Centre to identify ways to address current relief needs and to propose recommendations for reducing famine in the world. Students begin in their role-specific groups and identify what their role can contribute to an understanding of famine. They do this by creating a brochure of their role and possible contributions to understanding and solving the problem of famine. Each team presentation includes a list of ways to address current relief needs and recommendations for reducing famine in the world. The recommendations are compiled by the teacher, and the information in the brochures and presentations are combined into a class Web page as a culminating experience.
- Essential Question
Am I my brother’s keeper, and who is my brother?
- Unit Questions
Can famine be prevented?
What should be the U.S. role in the prevention and relief of famine?
How do different professional perspectives influence prevention and relief recommendations?
- Content Questions
What is famine?
What causes famine?
What is currently being done by the U.S. and other countries to eliminate famine?
How does famine in one country affect food resources in another country?
View how a variety of student-centered assessments are used in the Famine Unit Plan. These assessments help students and teachers set goals; monitor student progress; provide feedback; assess thinking, processes, performances, and products; and reflect on learning throughout the learning cycle.
Prior to Unit
At the beginning of the year, distribute the Social Studies Class Newsletter to parents and interested community members to explain the role that projects will play throughout the year.
Introduction to Unit
Ask students to read the article “What Is Famine?”* Ask them to think about the following questions while they are reading and to take some notes to prepare for a discussion:
- What is famine?
- What causes famine?
- Can famine be prevented?
- What is currently being done by the U.S. and other countries to eliminate famine?
- What should be the U.S. role in the prevention and relief of famine?
- How does famine in one country affect food resources in another country?
- What does famine have to do with me?
Discuss briefly how some famines are created by weather patterns and other famines are caused by war, economic collapse, governmental incompetence, or maliciousness. Famine is not selective. In the 20th century alone, famines raged through India, China, and various parts of Africa, Russia, and North Korea. That does not mean that the famine problem is insurmountable. Despite hunger, the world already produces enough food to feed everyone, according to the United Nations’ statistics. One area that offers hope is the use of powerful computer-based technologies. Throughout the discussion, let students know that they will study and learn how to connect with the world, create feedback, and affect real change through their efforts.
After students have read the article and held a short discussion, pose the Essential Question, Am I my brother’s keeper, and who is my brother?, for a Socratic Discussion*.
Put students in small groups and ask them to come up with five questions that need to be answered before an individual, organization, or nation commits resources to helping people in need (for example, How great is the need? How do our skills and resources meet the need?). Post lists of questions around the room. Ask students to read the other groups’ questions, and then return to their groups and discuss. Circulate through the room as groups discuss, taking anecdotal notes. Refer to the notes to help students needing further clarification and additional instruction, and to assess growth over the course of the project.
Introduce the unit with a presentation that includes introductory information about the International Famine Centre and famine. Place students in groups of four or five, distribute the United Nations Memo, and describe the following situation:
Your team has been asked to work with the International Famine Centre to identify ways to address current relief needs and propose recommendations for reducing famine in the world.
Ask the groups to assign each person to one of the following roles:
- Agricultural engineer
- Agricultural scientist
- Economist and community planner
- Public health professional
- Social anthropologist
Put students into groups based on the roles they will play in the project, so all students with the same role are in a group together. Give students the self-direction rubric to help them plan, monitor, and learn from this project experience.
Inform students that the brochure needs to answer the question, How do different professional perspectives influence prevention and relief recommendations?
Provide two to three days for completion of this portion of the project, scheduling team conferences to provide frequent feedback on progress. Share with the students the Webliograpy: Am I My Brother’s Keeper? to help them get started with the research process.
As students conduct their research, provide instruction in the kinds of thinking, collaboration, and research skills that will help them produce high-quality products. Some students may need templates and other resources to support them as they complete the project.
After the brochures are complete, have students return to their original groups and share their publications. Review the brochures using the brochure assessment and provide feedback before the next activity.
Ask students to return to their original groups (in which each student has a different role). Explain that teams will select a country or area currently experiencing famine and will research a problem and pose solutions to the problem. Solutions will be presented at a “National Conference.”
- What responsibilities will all the roles share?
- What unique responsibilities will each role have?
After students have had an opportunity to refine their presentations, ask the teams to provide peer feedback on the draft presentations using the presentation assessment as a guide.
When the final presentations are complete, as a form of affirmation, invite parents, school personnel, and other community members to participate in a “National Conference”. For best results, hold the conference in a computer lab where several students can show their presentations at once. As guests walk around to view the slideshows, students can answer questions and receive recognition for their work.
To synthesize learning, divide students into four new groups with each group member coming from a different presentation group. Assign each group the task of creating one or more Web pages addressing one of the following topics:
- Introduction that describes the class and the project, including general information and definitions related to famine and a rationale for providing relief to countries experiencing famine
- Main facts about each of the countries investigated in the presentations with prioritized recommendations for involvement
- Survey that collects information from visitors about their feelings regarding famine, the United States’ responsibility, and the effectiveness of the Web site, minimally answering the Unit Question, What should be the U.S. role in the prevention and relief of famine?
- Annotated collection of Web and print resources about famine and a list of recommended organizations involved in famine relief with directions for getting involved
- Discussion of the Unit Question, What should be the U.S. role in the prevention and relief of famine?
Show the sample wiki* and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each page and the site as a whole. Help students to create a rubric outlining four levels of proficiency. Traits to consider when building the rubric include:
- Graphic Design
Ask students to use the rubric as a guide when designing their wikis. See a sample wiki rubric.
As a final activity, ask students to write an in-class essay incorporating specific information from their own presentations and those of their classmates to answer the Essential Question, Am I my brother’s keeper, and who is my brother?
- Understanding of historical scope and significance of famine, including basic geographic knowledge of regions affected by drought
- Familiarity with Internet search and retrieval methods
- Experience with basic word processing and publishing software
Special Needs Student
- Repeat instructions verbally and in writing
- Check for understanding
- Allow extra time for assignment completion
- Allow for assisted technologies according to Individualized Educational Plan (IEP)
- Provide open-ended assignments
- Emphasize group learning skills and development
- Focus on problem solving skills and creative aspects
- Focus on inductive and deductive reasoning
- Allow the use of some resources in the student’s first language
- Provide suggested resources that are at an appropriate reading level
- Allow students to work with other bilingual students
Scott Gullett participated in the Intel® Teach Program, which resulted in this idea for a classroom project. A team of teachers expanded the plan into the example you see here.
Background: From New Mexico, United States
At a Glance
- Grade Level: 9-12
- Subjects: Economics, Life and Earth Science
- Topics: World Hunger, Agriculture, Economy, Politics
- Higher-Order Thinking Skills: Synthesis, Cause and Effect, Systems Thinking
- Key Learnings: Human Impact, Worldwide Famine
- Time Needed: 6 weeks (completion time depends on research pace and students’ ability to work together)
Common Core Alignment
This unit is aligned to Common Core State Standards for Language Arts.
- Literacy in History/Social Studies RH.9-10, RH.11-12