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This lesson is a good supplement to the curriculum units The United States in Afghanistan and Indian Independence and the Question of Pakistan.

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Teaching with the News

Pakistan's Floods

Pakistan's terrible floods began in the summer of 2010, but their devastating effects continue. Although media coverage has dwindled, the crisis persists as over a million people remain displaced, many without reliable access to food or drinking water. This lesson introduces students to the disaster and encourages them to consider the impact of history, climate vulnerability, and current politics as they attempt to understand the terrible flooding in Pakistan.


Students will:


Graphic Organizers

Downoad Lesson

Note to Teachers

In the Classroom

1. The Wall

Begin the class by writing the word "Pakistan" in the center of the blackboard or on a large piece of paper. Give students five minutes to approach the board and write whatever comes to mind, including statements, words, impressions, and questions. Instruct the class to do the exercise in silence. Encourage students to add to each other's postings as well as write their own independent postings. Note: Although the activities focus on Pakistan's devastating floods, they in fact are a springboard to consider numerous other issues including:

Prompt students to cast their nets far and wide for things to write on "The Wall."


2. What happened in Pakistan?

Show students the following videos and ask them to record as many facts about the flood as they can. What has happened in Pakistan? Have students recount the specific details of the flooding and add them to the "The Wall." Have students heard about the flooding? What media coverage have students seen about the flooding? About Pakistan in general?

Vazira Zamindar

What are the short-term effects of the flooding?

J. Timmons Roberts

Were the floods in Pakistan a "natural disaster?"

Corey D. B. Walker

How has the Western media covered the flooding in Pakistan?


3. What is climate vulnerability?

Show students the following videos and encourage a discussion about climate change. What is climate vulnerability? What factors contribute to climate vulnerability? Did climate change play a role in the flooding in Pakistan? List the factors from Professor Zamindar's answer that indicate why Pakistan was vulnerable to flooding and will remain vulnerable. Is she optimistic or pessimistic?

J. Timmons Roberts

Why are some countries more vulnerable to climate disasters than others?

J. Timmons Roberts

Did global climate change cause the flooding in Pakistan?

Vazira Zamindar

What are the long-term challenges of the flooding?


4. How do politics and history affect events in Pakistan?

Distribute the graphic organizer and inform students that they will be viewing experts on Pakistan's history and culture. Not all of the information is presented chronologically, therefore part of the students' task is to keep track of the events. As they watch the clips, students should use the handout to record important events, policies, and trends that affect Pakistan today. The Venn diagram is intended as a tool to facilitate discussion and help students gather information while watching the videos. You may wish to fill in the overlap section as a class.

Corey D. B. Walker

How do political issues affect our understanding of Pakistan?

Vazira Zamindar

How does history affect Pakistan's ability to cope with this disaster?

Vazira Zamindar

What has been the relationship between Pakistan and the United States?

Corey D. B. Walker

How do cultural issues affect our understanding of Pakistan?

Vazira Zamindar

What are common misunderstandings about Pakistan?

After viewing the videos, review students' notes on the graphic organizer. Ask students to look at the left circle in the diagram. What are the major historical events that influence Pakistan today? How might these events have made Pakistan vulnerable to a flood crisis or affected the Pakistan government's response to the flood? Ask students to look at the right circle in the diagram. What are the issues that affect U.S. attitudes and policies toward Pakistan? How have U.S. attitudes and policies made Pakistan more or less vulnerable to the flood? How have they influenced the U.S. response to the floods?

Now ask the students to look at the overlap area in the center of the diagram. What can this tell us about the relationship between the two countries?

Do U.S. perceptions of Pakistan have an impact on the Pakistani people? How might a better U.S. understanding of Pakistan's history and culture affect both countries positively?


5. What is global citizenship?

Show students these three video clips. What are the values that are expressed? Are there values or ideas that students strongly agree with? Ones they disagree with?

Corey D. B. Walker

What are the qualities of a global citizen?

Vazira Zamindar

What does it mean to be a global citizen?

J. Timmons Roberts

What is global citizenship?

Finally, consider J. Timmons Roberts' answer to the question, "What is climate justice?" What does he mean when he says, "That's kindergarten ethics"? Challenge students to make an argument that supports his point of view. Then challenge students to make an argument against his point of view.

J. Timmons Roberts

What is climate justice?

What responsibilities to students feel to help others in need? Where does their sense of responsibility come from: their values? their religion? their parents? somewhere else? Does Pakistan's history or the U.S. relationship with Pakistan affect students' sense of responsibility?

Have students brainstorm (individually or in groups) ideas about how to respond to events in Pakistan.

Tell students that they should produce a one paragraph action-plan that outlines the steps they are going to take in response to the situation in Pakistan and the issues raised by the videos. (This can be an individual or a group project and can be done in class or for homework.) Encourage students to be as creative as possible. Here are a few ideas for projects:


Additional Resources: The situation in Pakistan remains critical. Below are a few resources with more information.

BBC: Pakistan Floods
Updated news, multimedia, maps, and other resources.

A leading Pakistani newspaper.

Oxfam International
This brief clip from November 1, 2010 highlights the continuing crisis in the province of Sindh.


Related Materials

Indian Independence and the Question of Pakistan

This curriculum probes the complex, rich history of South Asia. The end of the Second World War was also the beginning of the end for the old colonial empires. India's bid for independence from Great Britain is riveting history. Examining the debate leading up to the partition of India into two states provides insight into the historical dynamics that continue to shape India and Pakistan today and provide the backdrop for the conflict in Kashmir.


Global Environmental Problems: Implications for U.S. Policy

Until recently, concern about the environment revolved almost exclusively around local and national problems. In the past thirty years, scientists increasingly have focused attention on more far-reaching environmental threats that transcend national boundaries. A new concept - global environmental problems - has entered the public arena, especially in the area of foreign policy and economic matters. Global Environmental Problems: Implications for U.S. Policy explores the relationship between public policy in the United States and the ecological health of the planet.