Lesson Plans

Growing Up Through the Cracks: Exploring Solutions to Child Poverty in Scotland and the United States

Nicole Glaze owner of Great Start Day Care in North Braddock, left, and Kee’Miyah West, 8, look at Kee'Miyah's Christmas toy wishlist. Image by Michael M. Santiago/Post-Gazette. United States, 2019.


Students will be able to...

  • define poverty and deprivation
  • describe how poverty affects children and communities.
  • compare and contrast approaches to solving childhood poverty.
  • explain the motivations of different interest groups participating in solving child poverty.

Warm Up:

Set up a gallery walk activity. Paste four large pieces of chart paper around the room with the following question prompts:

  • What is poverty?
  • What does poverty look like?
  • Who is affected by poverty?
  • What causes poverty?

Students can use a post it to respond to each question prompt, pasting their responses on the appropriate chart paper. After students are done responding, discuss their responses and determine a working definition for poverty and the synonym deprivation used in the reporting project. 

Introducing the Lesson:

“Growing Through the Cracks” is a reporting project by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that explores how childhood deprivation triggers a multitude of other problems for communities. The project delves into a dozen communities in which half of the kids live in poverty and people are looking for solutions.

Today, we’re reviewing two articles that explore different communities where child poverty is being examined and governments are stepping in to find solutions. We’ll read an article focused on Possilpark, a notoriously violent neighborhood in Glasgow, Scotland, and Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, where children are facing a host of problems stemming from poverty. Both articles will explore the adversity each community faces and how local and national government plans to solve the problem. 

Introducing Resource 1:

Read “The Issue of Our Time” by Rich Lord of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in pairs, small groups, or individually. Answer the following questions as your read:

  • How are the county and city of Pittsburgh planning to distribute funding to support children living in poverty?
  • How does growing up in poverty impact children? What are some long-term effects of growing up in poverty?
  • What role does Kee’Miyah play in telling this story?
  • What obstacle is the county facing in their plan to combat childhood deprivation?
  • What has Stefani Pashman’s conference revealed about the state of education in the county?
  • What role do jobs play in diminishing child poverty?
  • List all of the groups that are involved in the discussion of child poverty in Allegheny County. What are their attitudes, ideas, and motivations for solving this problem?

Introducing Resource 2:

Read “A Wee Spark of Hope” by Rich Lord and Michael Santiago in pairs, small groups, or individually. Answer the following questions as you read:

  • Describe why Possilpark is seen as a “test case” for parliament’s vow to end poverty.
  • How is Possilpark viewed by outsiders?
  • What sentiments fuel youth violence? How are nonprofits like Young People’s Future responding to the needs of children?
  • How is Scotland’s Parliament supporting low-income families? 
  • How will UK benefit cuts affect children living in poverty?
  • What characters does the journalist introduce us to and why? Do you connect with any of them?
  • How does the journalist weave personal stories into their reporting? Do you think sharing personal stories makes the article stronger? Why or why not?
  • How do Stacy Innerst’s illustrations add to the reporting? 


Use the attached graphic organizer to compare and contrast Allegheny County and Possilpark approaches to combating child poverty.

Here is a pdf of the graphic organizer.

Here is a word document version of the graphic organizer.


  • How does experiencing poverty in childhood create low expectations for people who live in communities like Possilpark and Allegheny County?
  • What can communities do to support children living in poverty? What can local governments do to support children living in poverty?
  • How can communities leverage education spaces to support children experiencing poverty? 
  • In a different article in the “Growing Up Through the Cracks” reporting project, Mr. Peter Barry, head of housing and employability for West Dunbartonshire Council, defends public housing and government-funded services by stating, “As a human being, we have an absolutely innate duty to look out for each other.” Do you agree with that statement? Why or why not?
  • Do you think the U.S. government should make a pledge to end child poverty the way Scotland has? Should that pledge be executed at the state or federal level? Why do you think the U.S. has not yet chosen to focus on ending child poverty?

Extension Activities:

Option 1: Visual Art Activity

In both articles, students collaborate with illustrator Stacy Innerst to tell personal stories. The illustrations highlight elements of their environment they’d like to change or describe their life and the challenges they are facing. The illustrations also explore each student as a person with characteristics, hopes, dreams, and fears. More of Stacy Innerst’s work with children experiencing poverty can be found on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Growing Up Through the Cracks website.

Choose one of the following art activities inspired by Stacy Innerst’s illustration series.

  • Art as Activism: Is there something in your community that you’d like to change or highlight? Use a small poster board to illustrate a problem that you’d like addressed in your community. Highlight the problem and offer a solution. Refer to Stacy Innerst’s work in “A Wee Spark of Hope” for examples.
  • Graphic novel: Create a young character facing poverty and use one to five pages to examine how poverty affects their life. Remember strong characters have personalities, relationships, and desires. This can be a simple character piece where you explore a central figure or a traditional story where a character has a desire and obstacle to overcome. 

You may utilize this characterization graphic organizer to develop your protagonist. 

Here is a word document version of the graphic organizer.


Option 2: Persuasive Monologue 

There are a variety of groups involved in solving child poverty: national government, local government, corporations, nonprofits, parents, kids, and teachers. Each group has a stake in solving this problem. 

Imagine that you are attending a public event (i.e.  a town hall, legislative hearing, corporate fundraiser, or school assembly) where you are being asked to represent your group, describe the problem of childhood deprivation, and ask the audience for something (money, supplies, volunteers, etc.) to help solve the problem. Construct a three-paragraph monologue and present it to your class. 

Here is a suggested outline for the composition:

  • Paragraph 1: What is the problem and why do you, as a representative of your group, care?
  • Paragraph 2: Why should others care about this problem?
  • Paragraph 3: What are you asking for and how will this contribute to solving the problem of childhood poverty?

This can be an individual or small group activity and can be presented in front of the entire class or in small groups. 

Option 3: Extended Reading and Comprehension Questions

“Growing up Through the Cracks” is an extensive reporting project that includes many more articles. Read the following articles in this project:

  1. Echoes of Scotland’s Anti-Poverty Revolution
  2. Exploring the ‘Possobilities’ in Scotland’s Poorest Ward
  3. In Leechburg, an Elementary School Stands Against A Tide of Poverty

 Answer the following questions:

  • How does poverty affect a neighborhood’s identity? Family identity? Personal identity?
  • How do community-led initiatives in Possilpark demonstrate the importance of including voices of people who have actually experienced poverty to affect change? 
  • Why is it important for educators to understand the effect that poverty has on their students?

Option 4: Personal Reflection 

  • Prompt 1: Write a reflection essay on the articles you read in the “Growing Up Through the Cracks” reporting project. Did any of the statistics or personal accounts affect you? Did you learn something new about the experience or effects of growing up in poverty? How has your attitude shifted?
  • Prompt 2: Do you have experience with poverty or in proximity to poverty? Describe that experience in a five-paragraph essay. You can make this as personal you would like.

Option 5: Research and Take Action

Are their deprived communities near you? In your neighborhood? Your city? Your state? How are they being supported by schools, local government, nonprofits, or corporations? 

Research communities in need around you and search for ways that you and your classmates can volunteer your efforts. Can you run a book drive? Volunteer at a food pantry? Tutor students in afterschool programs? 

Determine a need, a way to help, and present it to your class. 


Educator Notes: 

Common Core Standards:

Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text

Analyze how a text uses structure to emphasize key points or advance an explanation or analysis.

Lesson Builder Survey