Make a Difference

The world knows about Malala’s passionate defense of the right of girls to an education, but she is not the only young adult who is making a difference. Read The Washington Post and other media to learn about young people around the globe who are addressing issues and finding solutions to problems. Brainstorm ways you can make a difference.
Download Classroom Worksheets (PDF) 

You don’t have to be an adult to make a difference. You don’t have to have a big budget. You need to be observant and informed of the needs around you and have the desire to change attitudes and conditions.


Students are introduced to a KidsPost article and book review focusing on kids who are making a difference. Students learn how to create a news alert monitor using The Post’s e-Replica feature and to write a book review.


The U.N. Refugee Agency estimates 10.4 million refugees at the beginning of 2013. Almost half of the world’s forcibly displaced people are children and many spend their entire childhood far from home. Whether they are refugees, internally displaced, asylum-seekers or stateless, children have rights to an education, safety, healthy conditions and non-discrimination.


The Washington Post NIE program calls students to action. After getting informed through the suggested activities in this curriculum guide and readings, students are encouraged to brainstorm a class project to solve a problem or face an issue. Classrooms that enter the Call to Action will be eligible for a drawing to win a pizza party.


March 2015

Make a Difference
Resource Graphic 

Develop Vocabulary
English, Reading

To introduce students to the theme of this curriculum guide — make a difference — discuss the following phrases:
• Pay it forward: Respond to someone’s kindness to you by being kind to someone else.
• Pay back: Expect payment or beneficial action for what you do; the opposite of pay it forward.
• Do a good deed: Help someone without expectation of payment. It would be nice to receive a thank you or smile, but don’t expect it.
• Be aware: Observe people around you to see who might need a kind word or act of kindness.
• Make a difference: Have a positive effect on someone; act to change a situation or alter circumstances.

Explain to students that making a difference might help other people, animals or the environment. It doesn’t have to be a big project; it can be a simple act of kindness.


Read About Kids and Their Projects
Career Education, English, Reading, Social Studies

Activism and exploration of issues do not need to wait until college.  Give students the KidsPost article, "Differenct Ways to Make a Difference," and the KidsPost review, “New book encourages kids to change the world.” in the bood review, KidsPost editor Christina Barron gives her opinion about Kids Who Are Changing the World. The book introduces 45 students (12 from the U.S. and four from Canada).

When it seems that adult leaders aren’t confronting environmental issues, these students are utilizing different disciplines and individual talents to provide solutions. Discuss the students and their projects that are highlighted in the review. What activity or interest stimulated a desire to make a difference? How did “word spread” about the project?


Teachers might augment the KidsPost article with these additional examples:
• “8 amazing kids who have changed the world” 
• “3 young wonders changing the world

Monitor an Issue
Social Studies, U.S. Government, World History

Read the newspaper to learn about issues, problems and situations that need a solution. After discussion of the day’s news, explain to students that they can select a topic and receive an update from The Washington Post.


Know the News | Create a News Alert Monitor” provides instructions for teachers to set up a monitor with their students and terms to practice. Teachers who use the e-Replica activity are reminded that the monitor e-mail will go to them.


Begin With a Pencil
Character Education, Journalism, Social Studies

Read the March 1, 2015, Parade Magazine article, “Anything Is Possible.” Three everyday people are featured. Locate on a map where each lives and where their projects are located. What inspired them to act? How is each making a difference?

What advice does each give? Use a pencil as a symbol of finding a problem and honing a focus. Use the pencil to brainstorm ways their class might begin by finding a solution to a local problem. 

Preview Through a Photograph
Art, Journalism, Media Literacy, Visual Literacy 

Nine photographs from the many images captured by Washington Post staff photographer Linda Davidson are presented in a photo gallery. Refuge photographs were taken in October 2014 when Davidson and Post correspondent Kevin Sullivan visited Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon to report on the Syrian refugee crisis. 

Ask students to look at each story. What can they tell about the people and their circumstances from the images? Teachers might cut the nine photographs into groups of three or individual images to give to student groups. The images may also be located online at Refuge for projection to the class. Questions would include:
• Who is in the photograph? What details reveal something about the person(s)?
• Where is the photograph taken? Any details give you a hint?
• What do you think has happened to the person(s)?
• What emotion is conveyed through the image? 

The story behind each photograph may be read at Refuge: 18 Stories From the Syrian Exodus.


Write a Book Review
English, Journalism, Social Studies

Teachers can introduce students to book reviews through Christina Barron’s review of Kids Who Are Changing the World.

• What information about the book is provided?
• Barron highlights two students who are included in the 45 exemplary young people. What kind of information is provide about both of them?
• If the information about Olivia and Felix is typical of the book, will the book be a good one to read to learn about different ways to make a difference?


A previous NIE curriculum guide focuses on writers, books and the review of books. Teachers are encouraged to peruse Reviewing a Whirl of BooksIt includes guidelines for younger and older students to write a book reviews as well as examples of book reviews from The Post’s Book World.


Give older students “Review a Book Review.” These reviews may be posted in your classroom, outside your classroom in a display or published in student media. They could be part of a focus on a topic.

Refugee Stories in Docs and Photographs
Resource Graphic 

Read About Young Adults
English, Media Literacy, Reading

Use the books found in the sidebars of this curriculum guide as beginning points to read about people who have made a difference and the stories of children whose lives were changed by war. In addition, read KidsPost and Washington Post articles to meet people who are influencing the lives of others.


Meet Malala
English, Reading, Social Studies

Ziauddin Yousafzai, a Pakistani diplomat and educator, provided education for girls in the Swat Valley in northwest Pakistan. Read to learn how his daughter Malala advocated for the rights of girls to an education and was shot by a gunman as she boarded her school bus. From Birmingham, England, Malala has continued her education and activism for girls education.
• “Malala Yousafzai shares Nobel Peace Prize
• “Malala Yousafzai says she yearns to be ‘normal,’ despite fame — and now Nobel
• “The amazing thing Malala plans to say if a Taliban gunman approaches her again
• “Gender discrimination through my son’s eyes"

What issues, problems or situations related to education would students want to solve?

In her book review of I Am Malala, Marie Arana wrote: “Whether an emerging nation likes it or not, its girls are its greatest resource. Educating them, as economist Lawrence Summers once said, ‘may be the single highest-return investment available in the developing world.’”

After reading about Malala, ask students to discuss the how she illustrates the significance of girls to society. What other examples do they have?


Malala began a social media campaign #Strongerthan. What are students stronger than? How might they use their talents and strengths to make a difference? 

Get Elected
Social Studies, U.S. History, U.S. Government

West Virginia’s youngest legislator is 18-year-old Saira Blair. Introduce her to students through Monica Hesse’s Style section feature, “West Virginia’s Saira Blair is learning to balance college life, state politics.

Discussion could include these questions:
• Locate West Virginia’s 59th District on a map. What do you know about this district from the article?
• Hesse writes a personality profile of this young legislator. What characteristics does she communicate? What details lead you to this conclusion?
• Summarize Blair’s decision to run for office. What motivated her?
• What influence does her father, Craig Blair, have on her political involvement?
• In what ways can students in your class and school get involved in government and political activities?

Create an Advocacy Ad
Art, Journalism, Media Arts, Social Studies

Students will complete one or more of the suggested activities (“Read About Kids and Their Projects,” “Monitor an Issue,” “Read About Refugees”) in this curriculum guide. Having become aware of the issues and opportunities to get involved — and to make a difference. Students can make their classmates aware of projects and ways they could be involved through an advocacy ad.


Introduce students to advocacy advertisements. Background information and examples can be found in Get an Ad-Vantage


Use current issues of The Washington Post to locate additional examples of advocacy ads. Discuss the concerns and issues as well as the layout and design of the ads.


Students will work alone or in pairs to create the advocacy ads. They will decide on a different issue or opportunity for involvement. Teachers will determine the size, format and medium for ads. Are these for display in classrooms and the halls of the school? For publication in print student media? Or in digital files for use on student news Web sites?


Make a Difference
English, Science, Social Studies, U.S. History

Call your students to action. Encourage your students to read The Washington Post’s news articles, commentary and features to learn about their world. The Metro section focuses on local news. Discuss content and identify the problems that need solutions.


Ask students to select an issue or situation — for example, anti-drug campaigns, polluted waters and wetlands or homeless families. After students identify and understand the issue or situation, they are to brainstorm their own solutions for one aspect of the problem, something they can do as a class to make a difference. You may find "Solve a Problem" useful for this stage of the activity.


The Washington Post NIE program encourages you to complete this activity. “Call to Action” suggests steps to follow in this challenge. Teachers are invited to submit their students’ project to Margaret Kaplow, Educational Services Manager, at Please accompany the project with “Entry Form: Call to Action.”


Projects will be shared on The Post’s NIE Web site. A drawing will be held of submissions meeting the guidelines with the winning class receiving a pizza party.

Read About Children and War

Develop Vocabulary
English, Government, Social Studies

Ten terms related to refugees are found in In the Know. Each term is used in a sentence that provides information that is found on the Web site of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Ask students to define the terms based upon context.


These terms are also found in Washington Post international coverage of refugees and displaced people. Ask students to collect sentences in which these terms are found in articles they read in The Post. Be sure to include the headline, byline and date of the article.


Teachers could ask students to select one of these terms: “best interests,” “displaced person,” “exile,” “refugee” and “stateless.”  Research for most recent developments. Begin research at refworld.  

Map It
Geography, Journalism, Social Studies

Locate the countries and areas within countries where conflict is taking place. Then find on the map locations where men, women and children have relocated, seeking refuge.

Read About Refugees
Journalism, Physical Education, Social Studies, World History

The U.N. Refugee Agency estimates 10.4 million refugees at the beginning of 2013. In addition, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees oversee 4.8 million registered refugees in 60 camps in the Middle East. 


Before reading Washington Post articles about refugee children, teachers may wish to review vocabulary related to refugees and those terms in context in In the Know and provide students with an overview of refugee figures

These five articles give insight into current refugee situations:
The most important soccer is not being played in Brazil but in refugee camps in Jordan
Lebanon ill-equipped to handle mental-health issues of Syrian refugee children
Children of Sri Lankan refugees born in India uncertain about future
The problem isn’t Central America’s child refugees. It’s the countries they come from.
Syrian refugees settle in to U.S. after unsettling upheaval


Conduct a e-Replica search to locate recent articles about refugees.

View the Lives of Refugees
English, Photography, Visual Arts

Teachers might encourage students to read about certain world situations through documentaries and photo collections. Review the resources that are listed under “Refugee Stories in Docs and Photographs.” The first eight might be assigned to student groups to review and report back to the class. The Explore Refugee Camps locates camps on maps with short descriptive information of each.


Research an Issue
English, Government, Social Studies, World History

Students need to understand issues before they can get involved. This would include the geographic, political, economic and cultural influences on events. Media coverage provides an indication of trends, practices and denial of individual freedom and a hindrance to democracy. Documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and work of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child  provide a foundation for international standards and fundamental human rights.

Educational opportunities, religious expression, health and safety of refugee children, respect for and preservation of cultural artwork, and rights of children, indigenous people and the elderly are all topics that fall within the human rights issues.

Select an issue and explore it. Summarize key points and explain how international rules are supposed to protect individual rights and protect the common good. Select one area within the issue to brainstorm solutions to the problem or ways to support those who are working on helping others. 

Interview Refugees
Journalism, Media Arts, U.S. History

Kevin Sullivan, Washington Post senior correspondent, and photographer Linda Davidson traveled across the Middle East in October 2014 to give a face to the two million Syrian refugees. Sullivan is interviewed about one of these stories.  Read Refuge: 18 Stories From the Syrian Exodus. 


Bring the story of a refugee to life for your school community. Teachers could locate a student or individual in your community who is willing to share his or her story. Prepare a background page for students to read and prepare questions before holding a press conference. If there are refugee students in your school, form reporting teams to interview and tape them. These can be shared within your class and in student print and broadcast media.

Make a Difference
English, Journalism, Media Arts, Social Studies

You can make a difference by knowing the resources that are available in your community to assist students and their families. Whether they are national programs like the American Red Cross and My Brothers Keeper or local ones provided by religious and community groups, let your school community know that they exist.


You can write a column for your student newspaper or online news source. Or provide PSAs and commentary for your school’s broadcast program. Each could focus on a type of assistance — housing and meals, scholarships, medical and dental services, clothing for daily wear, ways to volunteer.

Post NIE Guide Editor & Writer | Carol Lange
Post NIE Guide Art Editor | Carol Porter

Resource Graphic 
In The Know 

Best Interests Individual circumstances, such as age, level of maturity, presence or absence of parents, and the child’s environment, are used to determine the best interests of a child.
Deterent  After 12 years in exile, a young woman returns to her family home in Bosnia, which was destroyed as a deterrent to return.

Dire human conditions have been reported in a refugee camp in Cameroon’s Far North Region where Nigerians have fled attacks by Boko Haram.


Displaced A workshop for internally displaced Colombians provides a release for those traumatized 
Exile A young Eritrean boy, born in exile, has returned to his homeland.

Sri Lanka’s new president, Maithripala Sirisena, has pledged greater reconciliation with the Tamils from the country’s war-torn northeast.


Refuge  Violence has forced millions of Iraqi children, women and men to flee their homes and seek refuge both inside and beyond their country’s borders.
Refugee  Of refugees living in camps, 56 percent are children.
Returnee Female returnees in Sri Lanka attend a UNHCR-funded support group.
Reunification Family reunification accounts for a significant share of legal migration.

Children — whether refugees, internally displaced or stateless — are at a greater risk than adults of abuse, neglect, violence, exploitation, trafficking or forced recruitment into armed groups.

  Sentences provide context for the vocabulary words.

Source: | A Framework for the Protection of Children | The UN Refugee Agency; The Washington Post

District of Columbia Public Schools Academic Content Standards 

World History and Geography II: The Industrial Revolution to the Modern World. Students analyze major developments in Africa since World War II.

7. Outline important trends in the region today with respect to individual freedom and democracy.

9. Describe the ethnic struggles in Rwanda, Burundi, and the Sudan. (10.11)


Historical and Social Sciences Analysis Skills. 3. Geographic Skills. Students relate current events to the physical and human characteristics of places and regions. They identify the characteristics, distribution, and complexity of Earth’s cultural mosaics.


Academic Content Standards may be found at

Maryland Academic Content Standards 

Political Science 1.0. Analyze the historic events, documents and practices that are the foundations of political systems around the world. (Indicator 2)

  1. Examine and report examples of historic events, documents and practices that have influenced individuals and around the world, such as the UN Declaration of Rights …


Political Science 1.0. Examine the rights and responsibilities of being a citizen of the world.

  1. Explain how international rules and laws protect individual rights and protect the common good, such as the Declaration of Human Rights, European Union membership, Geneva Conventions.


Political Science 1.0. Analyze how governments, organizations and policies around the world protect or fail to protect the rights of groups.

c. Describe the role of international organizations and policies in maintaining order during a time of crisis, such as the International Red Cross/Red Crescent, the United Nations, the Geneva Conventions, and the World Health Organization.


Academic content standards may be found at

Virginia Academic Content Standards 

World History and Geography: 1500 A.D. (C.E.) to the Present. The student will demonstrate knowledge of cultural, economic, and social conditions in developed and developing nations of the contemporary world by

a) identifying contemporary political issues, with emphasis on migrations of refugees and others, ethnic/religious conflicts, and the impact of technology, including chemical and biological technologies;

d) analyzing the increasing impact of terrorism.

U.S. History: 1865 to the Present. The student will demonstrate knowledge of the key domestic and international issues during the second half of the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries by

c) identifying representative citizens from the time period who have influenced America scientifically, culturally, academically, and economically;


Academic content standards may be found at


Common Core Standards 

English Language Arts Standards: Reading Informational Text. Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the cumulative impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone (e.g., how the language of a court opinion differs from that of a newspaper). (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.3)


History/Social Studies. Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.9-10.2)



Common Core standards may be found at