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In this photo essay, photographer Matt Black portrays the town of Flint and its residents as they persevere through the water crisis. A water crisis has severely impacted the residents since 2014. In this lesson, students view photos documenting the Flint, Michigan, water crisis and explore the themes of environmental justice and the consequences of corruption. These photographs are part of Black's commitment to documenting poverty across the United States.
The lesson plan is intended to help students develop those skills necessary to become critical viewers - to "read" photos and to articulate their understanding of what they are seeing.
The lesson plan is somewhat unique in that there are few resources that use art or more particularly photos to explore issues of sustainable development.
The Story of Flint might be used by
The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.
|Consideration of Alternative Perspectives||Good|
The lesson plan seeks to chronicle what studies have described as an example of environmental justice. Photographs are used to capture the consequences of that injustice. The opportunities to explore different perspectives comes with students discussing their reactions to the photographs.
|Consideration of Alternative Perspectives: |
|Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions||Very Good|
The right to clean water is both an environmental and social issue. The United Nations has described it as a fundamental right. The loss of clean water to the citizens of Flint appears to have been the result of a political decision made to reduce costs by changing the source of water for Flint residents from Lake Huron to the Flint River. All of this however must be viewed with the context of the closing of the GM plants in Flint and the resulting economic fallout.
|Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions: |
Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.
The issue is complex - globalization, loss of a key employer (GM), unemployment and poverty, health, loss of municipal tax base, race - and teachers may chose to examine these as an extension of the lesson plan. The photographs, which are central piece in the lesson plan raises these issues but a serious examination of these would require additional lessons and resources.
|Respects Complexity: |
The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.
|Acting on Learning||Satisfactory|
Students are not able to affect the crisis faced by Flint, but the lesson does ask them to think in general terms about what action is available to citizens in these situations. More specifically, students are asked to select one of the problems identified in the NPR timeline of the crisis and to propose a potential solution-based response that could protect Flint residents.
|Acting on Learning: |
Learning moves from understanding issues to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community, or for the planet
|Values Education||Very Good|
The photographs encourage students to think about environmental racism, economic and social inequities, and individual and government responsibilities
|Values Education: |
Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.
|Empathy & Respect for Humans||Very Good|
Many of the photographs depict the human suffering associated with the collapse of Flint following the GM closure, particularly as it affects the black population. The collection of images reminds us that photographs are often more powerful than government reports in documenting poverty.
|Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).|
|Personal Affinity with Earth||Good|
The photographs depicting the natural and built landscape are very powerful and may be expected to elicit a visceral response among students.
|Personal Affinity with Earth: |
Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.
|Locally-Focused Learning||Poor/Not considered|
While the subject of the lesson plan is Flint, teachers may help students consider examples of other communities or groups that are suffering from local or regional downturns in their economy because of economic forces beyond their control. Examples might be found in the students communities.
|Locally-Focused Learning: |
Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community.
|Past, Present & Future||Good|
Flint represents a case study of those communities that historically have enjoyed a degree of economic stability and predictability but whose continued well being was dependent on a key industry. Many of these communities are currently suffering because of a variety of economic forces - outsourcing of resources and jobs, globalization, technological innovation. The future for the people in these communities is uncertain and this feeds into the political currents of the day.
|Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.|
The photographs are intended to document the struggles of low income black communities in Flint from the photographers perspective. Students are asked to consider how individual photographs are "arranged" to evoke a particular response. Teachers may pursue this conversation by having students discuss how including or excluding certain photographs may also be used to shape the narrative.
In considering what "happened" in Flint, students have an opportunity to debate the decisions made by the players involved - the City government, GM, the health authorities, the state government.
Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.
Faces of Flint has a number of layers. A media studies approach would have student explore the aesthetic merits of the photographs and the selective use of photos to promote a particular narrative. Approached from a social studies perspective, students might consider the economic forces that are being played out here and in similar industrial communities. This may lead to a consideration of the larger issue of sustainable development and the environmental and social factors at play. Others might see this as a case study in environmental racism.
|Integrated Learning: |
Learning brings together content and skills from more than one subject area
Students are presented with a series of photographs and questions designed to help them "read" the photos.The responses are theirs and the exchange that follows allows students to share that response with others in the class.
|Inquiry Learning: |
Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.
The photos create a framework in which students are asked to look, to look again, to reflect, to share their reflections with others, and to listen to and learn from what others have to say.
The lesson also includes a number of reflective writing prompts that allow students to demonstrate their understanding of the story.
|Differentiated Instruction: |
Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.
The photo essay is intended to simulate a "trip' to parts of the Flint community.
|Experiential Learning: |
Authentic learning experiences are provided
Students view and respond to the photos collectively. The result is a sharing of views that allows students to hear what their classmates think about what they are seeing and thereby broaden their understanding.
|Cooperative Learning: |
Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.
|Assessment & Evaluation||Satisfactory|
The Flint Story relies on formative evaluation to determine the student's level of engagement and understanding. Guided questions are intended to encourage student response to the issues raised. The quality of that response may be used by teachers to gauge student understanding.
|Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.|
Peer teaching emerges from the student exchange elicited by their response to the photographs.
|Peer Teaching: |
Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.
The Flint Story is a case study of the deindustrialization that is the experience of many American cities and therefore part of the larger issue of technological change and globalization.
|Case Studies: |
Relevant case studies are included. Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore concepts in an authentic context.
|Locus of Control||Satisfactory|
The lesson plan sets out a structured conversation in which the teacher poses the questions and the students respond. The questions are, however, quite open and may take the class in a variety of directions.
|Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.|