Lesson Plans

Fragile States and Our Communities: Part 1

Part 1: Investigate the World

Investigate the World: Investigate the world beyond your immediate environment


Warm-up objective :

Use mathematical models and tools to collect evidence of and calculate an estimate of your daily cost of living. Develop an understanding of the safety structures in your environments and how you interact with those safety structures, building a foundation of understanding and a connection to fragile states.

  1. In a spreadsheet or notebook, create a detailed list of everything you use or consume that costs money. For example, estimate the cost of gas to get to school, the cost of each of your meals, how much the electricity in your home might cost per day, and anything you purchase during that day. Find and list the total money spent for the day.

  2. For one full day, take notice of and reflect on (through sketches, in a blog post, electronic document, or notebook) systems and structures in your school, home, and community that are designed to create safe environments.

  3. Get together in a groups of 3-5 to share and discuss both lists. Then, find a class average of money spent in a day and create a class list of safety structures found in your school, homes, and communities.


Investigate your world through the exploration of fragile states. Collaborate positively and effectively with diverse groups, while building on others’ ideas and expressing your own points of view clearly.

Introducing the Lesson:

Discussion Rubric: Read the discussion rubric carefully. You will be using the rubric to guide your interactions and conversations during this lesson. At the end of the lesson, you will do a self-evaluation on the rubric to be given to your teacher. Your teacher may be collecting evidence towards your rating as well.

1. Graffiti Walk

  • Write each of the following words in large print in the center of a piece of chart paper. Each word is on separate piece of chart paper. Place chart papers in an organized fashion around the room. Words: Fragile, State, Religion, Politics, Society, Economics, International, Security, Conflict, Stability, Crise, Developing
  • In small groups, walk around each poster, writing down whatever comes to mind: words, pictures, thoughts, ideas, or questions. Take about three minutes per word and then move on to the next word until you have completed the set of words. Write and draw all over the chart paper (graffiti style).
  • After your group has completed the last chart paper, stay at the final word. In your small group, discuss and be ready to share out a group summary of the word.

​2. Defining Fragile States

  • ​Look up the term fragile states.

  • Use search, along with the words from the Graffiti Walk, to create a definition in your own words. Make sure to include what qualifies a state as fragile (i.e. daily cost of living, safety of the people, access to healthcare, economic opportunities).

  • Add your definition in words, images, drawings, and any supporting links to your notes.

  • ​Post a class definition somewhere visible for reference throughout this lesson.

  • As a class, compare the componenets of fragile states to the information you collected as well as thoughts on your daily life. How are things the same? How are they different? What would life be like living in a fragile state?

​​3. Introducing Fragile States:

  1. ​Watch the Fragile States: Gateway Introduction Video

  2. Navigate to the text of the video on the Pulitzer Center’s Fragile States page. Or, use the printout of the text if you were given one.

  3. Read the text with a classmate. Use search engines, dictionaries, or any other supportive tools needed to fully understand the text.

  4. Watch the first 3 minutes (up to 2:51) of Fragile States, Global Consequences-Part 1.

  5. Answer the following questions individually and then discuss (remembering the discussion rubric goals) in groups of 2-3:

  • ​How would you describe, in detail, the issue being presented?
  • Why is the issue important?
  • What are at least 3 more questions you have based on the information presented?

4. ​​Fragile States, Global Consequences:

  1. One billion people across sixteen countries are living in fragile states. According to the Stanley Foundation, there are four steps to stability and positive growth in fragile states. The following four videos provide examples from four different countries in different states of development. You should now join one of four groups.

  2. Your group will be assigned one of the following four videos. You will watch the video, answer the questions assigned to the video, and prepare a small summary presentation to share what you have learned with your classmates.      

Video Part 1 Explorations

  1. Before viewing video: Find and list 3 important facts about the Democratic Republic of  the Congo and use Google Maps or Google Earth to locate and explore the DR Congo.

  2. ​After viewing video: Individually list 3-5 important pieces of information or understandings.

  3. Discuss in groups (use discussion rubric):​

  • ​One challenge the DR Congo faces is they do not have enough interpreters. How important is the interpreter role? What are some solutions to the shortage? How important is it for students, and people in general, to know another language? Why?
  • The United Nations does not have it’s own army and must depend on volunteers from countries around the world. What are the benefits of this? The drawbacks?
  • The United States and Europe mandate troops but only supply 2% of the troops themselves, depending heavily on troops from 3rd world countries for missions. Why do you think this is the case? How do you feel about learning this?
  • The video states that the United Nations are the only hope for the people of the DR Congo. Share your reaction to this statement. What is the role of hope in people's lives? How can hope be created in places where there seems to be very little of it? Has hope helped you overcome challenges in your own life? Share examples.
  • Research extension: UN Ambassador Susan Rice stated that the United States intends to build up peacekeeping capacities in the video, which was created in 2010. Locate and share information on what progress has been made by the United Nations from then until now. Have they been successful?

Video Part 2 Questions

  1. Before viewing video: Find and list 3 important facts about East Timor and use Google Maps or Google Earth to locate and explore East Timor.

  2. After video: Individually list 3-5 important pieces of information or understandings. important pieces of information or understandings.

  3.  Discuss in groups (use discussion rubric):​​

  • ​East Timor is a very small country, about the size of Connecticut, and the people are committed and working hard to rebuild the country after war. Yet, it has taken the most United Nations workers to try and restore it. They tried to rebuild the country in only two years and it was not successful. What, do you think, would have been some positives and negatives of proceeding at a slower pace?
  • The United Nations Army and the East Timor Police are working together for the first time in a long while, and only 8 years ago they were at war with one another. What skills do you think it takes, on both sides, for them to be able to remain civil and learn from one another? What skills do you need to get along with and work with people you do not have a lot in common with?
  • East Timor has many idle youth who are not in school and not working, which can easily lead to problems. The school and skills training programs have had many more youth apply for the spots in those programs than they could accept. What are some solutions to this problem? Would you add more school and skills training opportunities? What other programs might help youth be successful citizens?
  • Research extension: This video was created in 2010. Has East Timor succeeded in creating opportunities (through education, skills training programs, or other activities) for idle youth? Are they well attended? What is the youth crime rate in East Timor?

Part 3 Video Questions

  1. Before viewing video: Find and list 3 important facts about Bosnia and Herzegovina and use Google Maps or Google Earth to locate and explore Bosnia and Herzegovina.

  2. After viewing video: Individually list 3-5 important pieces of information or understandings.

  3. Discuss in groups (use discussion rubric):

  • ​On the surface, Bosnia and Herzegovina look very much like our communities, or developed countries. Yet, there are are many underlying destructive tensions that photographs don’t always capture. Are there any examples in your school or community where things look good on the surface and there are underlying issues?
  • Bringing Bosnia and Herzegovina out of fragile state status and into peace created an ethnic division in the area. Some say the Dayton Agreement created a monster by dividing Serbs from Bosniak Muslims and Catholic Croats. Do you consider the Dayton Agreement a good thing? Why or why not? What are the strengths? Weaknesses?
  • The Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of three members that together serve one four-year term: one member representing the Serbs, one member representing Catholics, and one member representing Muslims. Do you think this is an effective structure? Why or why not? What if the United States had three members of its Presidency (representing Republic, Democratic, and Independent parties)?
  • In a school in central Bosnia, students of all ethnic backgrounds play together, eat together, and hang out together. During classes, the students are ethnically divided for their classes into two different schools, with different principals, in the same building. Both groups learn the same science and math curriculum, but the rest of the subjects are taught from different perspectives based on different “historical facts” that show their perspective to be correct. What is your reaction to that?
  • Research extension: This video was created in 2010. Do ethnically divided schools still exist in Bosnia? Has any progress been made? If so, what is that progress?

Part 4 Video Questions

  1. Before viewing video: Find and list 3 important facts about Haiti and use Google Maps or Google Earth to locate and explore the Haiti.

  2. After viewing video: Individually list 3-5 important pieces of information or understandings.

  3. Discuss in groups (using discussion rubric):​​

  • ​Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Many than half of Haitians live on just $1.00 a day. Healthcare and free education are almost nonexistent. The video shares a Haitian statement, “We just want to get out of misery to get into poverty”. What is your reaction to this statement?
  • In 2008 the Hope Act was created, allowing garments produced in Haiti to be sold duty free to the United States. How do you think this helps Haiti’s economy?
  • Sixty percent of the Haitian population lives in rural areas. At the time of the video, investment money was mostly being filtered into Port-au-Prince, the largest city in Haiti. Why do you think money is filtered into large cities first? Why  is this a problem? What do you think will happen if money is not alsa filtered into rural areas?
  •  Research extension: This video was created in 2010. At that time, unemployment in Haiti was at 70%. Many people felt very hopeful about attracting international and Haitian investors to help created more jobs. What is the unemployment rate today? How successful have they been?

​Sharing Learning:

  1. ​Jigsaw into groups of four, with each group containing one person from each video group.

  2. Each person, in order, shares what they learned from each video and discussion.

  3. Summary of Learning: Add what you learning about fragile states to class Fragile States Padlet (teacher sets up ahead of time). Alternatively, class summarizes understanding of fragile states.

  4. Turn in your self-rating on the Discussion Rubric. Or, meet with your teacher to decide your score.

Educator Notes: 



In this lesson, students will understand characteristics of fragile states and their importance in our world today. They will investigate their daily cost of living and develop and understanding of the safety structures in their environments. Then, students will collaborate positively with diverse groups, expressing their points of view on fragile states effectively.


Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 6-8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly.


Model with mathematics.


Use appropriate tools strategically.

Lesson Builder Survey