November 2010

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:

  • Identify the immediate and long-term effects of the flooding on Pakistan.
  • Identify factors that contribute to vulnerability to climate disasters.
  • Examine the relationship between Pakistan’s history and current events.
  • Consider the U.S. relationship with Pakistan.
  • Consider individual and collective responses to the situation in Pakistan.


Graphic Organizer

Note to Teachers

  • You may choose to watch the videos as a class, or have students work in small groups. Your decision will probably depend on the availability of technology.
  • You should preview the clips to determine the sequence that works best for your classroom.
  • This lesson is intended to be an introduction and may be used as a steppingstone to further inquiry.

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:

  • The war in Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • The impact of global climate change
  • The role of history in current events
  • Ways in which students can respond to events in Pakistan

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?

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?

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.

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?

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:

  • Organize a Pakistan Flood Awareness Day at school
  • Invite members of congress or other local officials to your school to discuss the situation in Pakistan
  • Correspond with a school in Pakistan
  • Develop a plan to reduce carbon emissions at school or at home
  • Produce a photo collage of the events in Pakistan
  • Write a letter to a member of Congress outlining the issues and what should be done
  • Create a petition for community members to sign encouraging political leaders to address the situation in Pakistan
  • Organize a fundraiser and donate the proceeds to a relief organization that you have researched
  • Organize an event at your school that promotes understanding of Pakistan’s history and culture
  • Plan a public demonstration to voice your opinion about the floods in Pakistan

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.


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