The Lowdown


KQED's The Lowdown lesson plans provide suggestions for nonfiction analysis, writing/discussion prompts and multimedia projects to creatively integrate current events into core curriculum to encourage student civic engagement. More resources for teaching with the news can be found at KQED's The Lowdown

  • The Lowdown | A Short History of the Long Fight Against Sexual Harassment Lesson Plan

    Accusations of sexual harassment and assault against media mogul Harvey Weinstein caused a groundswell of allegations that have ended the careers of media, entertainment and political figures. Over a million women throughout the country and the world stood up to be counted in solidarity, using the hashtag #MeToo. But sexual harassment is nothing new. Women have encountered sexual harassment since entering the workforce, though the modern fight for equal rights has brought attention and visibility to the problem. In this Lowdown lesson, students will analyze the current and historic fight against sexual harassment.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Lowdown | Profiled: A Brief History of Personal Identification Methods Lesson Plan

    Facial recognition software is increasingly used for everything from silly Snapchat filters to border security. We now have the technology to create individual “face prints” that are so accurate that Apple used face-printing software in the latest iPhone. But how does this technology affect our safety, privacy, ability to peacefully protest— or even go out in public anonymously? This Lowdown lesson explores how facial recognition and similar technologies are being used, and how public opinion and public policy have changed as identification technology has developed throughout history.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Lowdown | Fake News Lesson Plan

    Fake news is no longer a matter of the occasional hoax. There is growing evidence that fake news has the power to shape public opinion and even sway elections. As more Americans get their news online, it is increasingly vital that students know how to verify sources and spot fake news or images, which often appear indistinguishable from a reliable source. This lesson asks students to analyze the consequences of fake news and build skills needed to question and verify what they view online.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Lowdown | What Is Net Neutrality and What Will the Internet Look Like Without It? Lesson Plan

    The policy of net neutrality prevents internet service providers (ISPs), like Verizon and AT&T, from slowing down the loading speeds of certain websites or creating “fast lanes” for sites that pay a fee. This policy will almost certainly be overturned by the Republican-controlled Federal Communications Commission. This Lowdown lesson explores the pros and cons of net neutrality and examines the different ways lawmakers view internet service.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Lowdown | Is Climate Change to Blame for Hurricane Harvey and Other Extreme Weather Disasters? Lesson Plan

    Although extreme weather events are nothing new, they have been on the rise. But is climate change really to blame? There is a lot that climate scientists still don't know about the relationship between climate change and extreme weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes, heat waves, droughts, and major rain and snow storms. Scientists are using climate models in order to figure out the role that climate change plays in extreme weather events. In this Lowdown lesson, students will analyze the role of climate change in extreme weather events, and how climate models are being used by scientists to determine its influence.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Lowdown | After the Fires: North Bay Teachers and Students Talk Disaster Prep Lesson Plan

    Wildfires burned whole neighborhoods in Northern California in a matter of minutes. In Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, hurricane winds and flood waters wreak havoc on buildings, power lines and roads. No community is entirely safe from natural disasters, but there are actions everyone can take to be better prepared. Through the stories of teachers and students affected by the devastating wildfires in Sonoma County, this lesson focuses on ways to prepare for a disaster and how to respond and help rebuild once the immediate danger has passed.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Lowdown | How Good Are You at Detecting Bias? Lesson Plan

    Cognitive bias affects us all. Even though we can fact-check information using phones and computers, we still fall for fake news and cling to outdated opinions. Why? When our cognitive biases take control, our ability to make logical judgments is limited, and facts take a back seat to deeply held beliefs. Scientists theorize that some cognitive biases have evolutionary roots, helping us maintain social connections. This mattered in prehistoric times when being isolated meant almost certain death. These days, cognitive biases still influence our choices — not to mention politics and elections. In this lesson, students will learn about five of the most common types of cognitive bias and ways to recognize and respond to them.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Lowdown | The Twisted Roots of America’s Immigration System Lesson Plan

    The debate over undocumented immigrants is often couched in terms of fairness, with calls for illegal arrivals to get “to the back of the line” behind those waiting for legal status. But rather than one orderly line to gain a visa or green card, there is an array of paths, and most of them are not determined by time spent waiting patiently. This Lowdown lesson explores the complex and confusing pathways to immigration in the context of past immigration policies and current calls for reform.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Lowdown | What Are Sanctuary Cities and How Are They Bracing for Trump’s Immigration Crackdown? Lesson Plan

    President Trump signed an executive order during his first month in office aimed at bolstering local immigration enforcement and punishing cities and counties—often referred to as “sanctuary cities”—that don’t fully comply with federal immigration authorities. In response, San Francisco filed a suit in federal court arguing that Trump’s executive order exceeds his constitutional power. This lesson will examine the history of sanctuary cities and ask students to look at arguments on both sides of the issue in light of recent developments.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Lowdown | Can Virtual Reality Make Us More Compassionate? Lesson Plan

    Virtual reality (VR) is an immersive experience, with 360-degree video, sound and sometimes other sensory inputs that simulate being in another environment. While most often used for entertainment, VR is also being studied by social scientists and psychologists as a way to alter the feelings or responses of users. Because VR is a controlled environment, it can be used to replicate specific situations. Studies are also being done to see if it can increase our empathy by allowing us to “experience” situations that we would not otherwise be able to. In this Lowdown lesson, students will analyze the arguments about whether or not virtual reality can actually increase empathy and, ultimately, lead to behavior change.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Lowdown | Does Your High School Start Too Early in the Morning? Lesson Plan

    Prompted by health warnings from organizations like the American Pediatric Association and others, schools are considering pushing back their start times to help students get more sleep. This is especially relevant for teenagers whose brains undergo a sleep-cycle phase shift during adolescence that causes them to stay up later. Advocates say a later start time will help students reap the academic and health benefits of more sleep. But opponents say there’s not enough evidence to disrupt the status quo. They fear later start times and later dismissals will cut into student athletics, extracurricular activities, family obligations and job responsibilities. In this Lowdown lesson, students will analyze the debate about school start time as it relates to changes in the sleep cycle that happen during adolescence.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Lowdown | How Did North Korea Get Like This? A Brief History Lesson Plan

    Nearly 70 years ago, the Korean peninsula, once a unified nation, split into two distinct states. In the resulting Korean War (1950 – 1953), millions of people were killed. But the peninsula remained divided, separated by a cease-fire line known as the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). In the decades that followed, North Korea became an increasingly isolated, totalitarian state. Despite today being one of the poorest nations on earth, North Korea has developed a huge military and a nuclear arsenal, and has repeatedly threatened to attack the United States. This lesson explores the history of the Korean peninsula and how North Korea became the rogue state it is today.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Lowdown | Should Underage Sexting Be Considered a Crime? Lesson Plan

    Underage sexting is a tricky issue to talk about in schools. Yet the risks of sexting are a serious concern for students, particularly given the potential severe legal consequences. Recently, there has been a growing push against criminalizing consensual underage sexting in favor of more age-appropriate guidance and education. In this Lowdown lesson, students will define underage sexting and analyze its potential risks, as well as evaluate and reflect on the legal consequences of sexting and whether they think the current punishments are appropriate for teens caught sexting with other teens.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Lowdown | Do Undocumented Immigrants Pay Taxes? Lesson Plan

    President Trump and other officials have characterized undocumented immigrants as a drain on the system, taking advantage of services but contributing little in return. In fact, undocumented immigrants pay billions in taxes each year, including into Social Security, a benefit that few end up receiving. In this lesson, students examine facts about the taxes undocumented immigrants pay and common debates about undocumented immigrants, including whether they place a strain on the economy or contribute to it.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Lowdown | How We Got Here: The Rise and Demise of DACA Lesson Plan

    Earlier this month, President Trump ended the DACA program, rolling back an Obama-era executive action created for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, protects recipients from deportation and gives them the right to work legally. Critics call the Trump administration’s actions unwarranted and cruel, given that most DACA recipients have only ever lived in the United States and had no choice about coming here illegally. Proponents of Trump’s decision claim Obama’s executive action was illegal. In this Lowdown lesson, students will analyze the history of recent immigration reform efforts, especially as they relate to undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Lowdown | The Hidden Benefits of Procrastination Lesson Plan

    Procrastination is often looked at negatively -- as a bad habit. However, new research suggests that some people need to procrastinate in order to get things done. Distractions provide the mind a break during which we can creatively think through problems. Some psychologists even believe that some people do their best work when they procrastinate. In this Lowdown lesson, students will determine if they are task-driven or deadline-driven. They will create a plan for completing assignments based on this determination.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Lowdown | What You Need to Know about Gentrification Lesson Plan

    Gentrification is a term used to describe the economic and cultural transition that often occurs when wealthier residents start to move into predominantly lower-income, urban neighborhoods. The shift typically pumps economic investment into the neighborhood, increasing its desirability and prompting rapid increases in rents and property values. While this boost in resources can result in improved safety and services, among a host of other positive changes, it also invariably alters the character and culture of an established community. In many instances, long-term residents in the neighborhood are priced out and forced to move to more affordable communities farther afield. In this lesson, students will analyze the effects of gentrification on neighborhoods and communities.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Lowdown | Redistricting: How the Maps of Power Are Drawn Lesson Plan

    Legislative districts are redrawn every 10 years after the census to make sure each district represents roughly the same number of people. It might seem like a boring, bureaucratic process, but it has a tremendous impact on the balance of power. Often, district lines are drawn to favor one political party over another in a process known as gerrymandering. When this happens, one political party dominates, making it almost impossible for the opposing party to be elected in that district. In this lesson, students explore the redistricting process and possible reforms to make redistricting less partisan.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Lowdown | Stop-and-Frisk: A Brief History of a Controversial Policing Tool Lesson Plan

    When police officers stop-and-frisk, they question and search an individual based on a suspicion that the person has committed or is going to commit a crime. The policy is designed to stop crime before it happens. When crime rates dropped in the 1990s, stop-and-frisk programs were often credited. However, the tide turned against the tactic when data showed that police disproportionately targeted people of color. Many communities protested the practice, and the courts intervened. This Lowdown lesson explores the history of stop-and-frisk and how the practice, once seen as a solution to urban crime, evolved over the decades.

    Grades: 6-13+
  • The Lowdown | A Brief History of the First Earth Day and What We Can Learn From Its Success Lesson Plan

    Earth Day grew out of the environmental movement in the late 1960s in response to a series of environmental disasters that took lives, marred natural beauty and threatened animal species. An estimated 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day – April 22, 1970 – which consisted of a series of local events designed to raise awareness of pressing environmental concerns. Today, the environmental movement is experiencing a strong resurgence amid fears of climate change, rising sea levels and carbon emissions. Yet the issue has grown far more partisan and divisive than it was when Earth Day first began. In this Lowdown lesson, students will analyze the origins and history of Earth Day, as well as evaluate how political and public support for Earth Day has changed over time.

    Grades: 6-13+

Brand:
Producer: