Students will:

  • Analyze photographs documenting U.S. foreign aid programs.
  • Understand the variety of ways U.S. foreign aid is used.
  • Consider the benefits and limitations of using photographs as a source for learning about foreign aid.


Handout—Looking at U.S. Foreign Aid

Powerpoint—Looking at Foreign Aid

Note: This lesson requires access to the internet for students or the ability to project a PowerPoint document of the photographs in the classroom. Students will get the most out of this lesson if they have read Parts I and II of Dilemmas of Foreign Aid: Debating U.S. PoliciesAlternatively, the lesson can be adapted for students who do not have this background knowledge.

In the Classroom:

1. Reviewing Foreign Aid

Begin class by briefly reviewing with students the different types of foreign aid the United States provides to countries—humanitarian, military and security, economic, and development. Who decides which countries receive aid? What is the purpose of these different types of aid? What does foreign aid look like on the ground? How is it distributed? What effects might it have on a community or country?

2. Exploring Photographs

Divide the class into small groups and distribute the handout. Direct students to the PowerPoint or show the images to the class. Assign each group four photos and instruct students to examine each image closely and answer the questions on the handout. Tell students that the images depict one U.S. funded program in particular—USAID. Remind students that USAID manages the largest portion of the U.S. foreign aid budget.

Note: Teachers should point out that it is important to be careful about drawing conclusions from photos. Remind students that they cannot be certain that a photo is an accurate or complete reflection of reality. While photos can provide clues about societies and how people live, they should be aware that photos, like written documents, show a small piece of a bigger picture. When analyzing the photos, students should think about both the content of the photo and the point of view of the photographer.

3. Presentations and Class Discussion

After students complete the questions, have everyone come together in a large group. Ask students to display their photos to the class and share their observations.

After students present their findings, have students reflect on what they learned from the photos. Did any of the photos change students’ ideas or assumptions about U.S. foreign aid? Have the photographs raised any new questions about foreign assistance? Where do students think they might find answers to these new questions?

What are the limitations of using photographs as a source for learning about U.S. foreign aid? How might photos present a selective or misleading portrait of a subject matter? Do students think it is important to consider the point of view of the photographer when analyzing photos? Did the photographers have a purpose in taking these photographs?

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