Lesson Plans

The Weekly: Tracing Conflict Minerals from the Ground to the Consumer

A trader in El Bagre, Colombia, melts gold he bought from local miners into bars to sell to bigger traders. The gold will be mixed with other supplies and eventually wind up in the hands of an exporter in Medellín. Image courtesy of the New York Times. Colombia.


Students will be able to...

  • Understand the reporting process for investigative journalism
  • Trace the supply chain of natural resources, including conflict minerals
  • Evaluate the role of different actors in illegal trade and its consequences


What role does gold play in your everyday life? With a classmate, brainstorm a list of things you think gold might be used to make. Then, do some research. Are any of the things you found surprising to you? How many of them do you or your family use in your everyday life?

Introducing the Resource:

To view "Apple's Gold" and other episodes of "The Weekly" for free, email education@pulitzercenter.org.

In this episode of “The Weekly,” you will trace the journey of gold all the way from the ground to its distribution in common household electronics. Along the way, you will learn about how a journalist conducts an investigation into a company’s supply chain, and how a simple question—where does the gold in my cell phone come from?—can lead to big stories about international trade, fair labor standards, drug trafficking, bribery, and murder.

While you watch “Apple’s Gold,” track how the journalists uncover the story and what evidence they provide for their claims by answering the following questions:

Click here for a printable PDF

Viewing guide for "Apple's Gold"


1. Casey says that “being a good corporate citizen has become a central part of the Apple brand.

  • What does it mean to be a “good corporate citizen”?
  • How is Apple failing to live up to that reputation?

2. Make a list of the people interviewed in “Apple’s Gold” and their roles in the Colombian gold trade. Then, discuss:

  • What purpose does each interview serve?
  • Who declines to be interviewed by The New York Times, and why?
  • If you were the journalist reporting this story, who else might you interview?

3. What impact had this reporting made by the time “Apple’s Gold” aired? What problems remain?

In-class Activity:

Casey establishes an immediate connection between the Colombians featured in this story and U.S. viewers by telling us that the U.S. is the top buyer of Colombian gold.

1. Break into groups of approximately four students each. Each group will be assigned one of the following issues associated with the Colombian gold trade:

  • Labor conditions
  • Violence and extortion
  • The environment

2. With your group, brainstorm and write down the following:

  • A definition of the problem, as it relates to Colombian gold mining, citing evidence from “Apple’s Gold”
  • A list of entities who bear responsibility for the problem
  • A list of recommendations for how to improve the situation, indicating the entity toward whom each recommendation is directed

3. Present your work to the class. While you listen to your classmates’ presentations, take notes on which recommendations you think are most and least compelling.

4. Discuss them as a class:

  • Which recommendations do you find most compelling, and why?
  • Which recommendations do you find least compelling, and why?
  • What can you do personally to act on these recommendations?


Extension Activities:

Option 1. Research create an explanatory video

1. Rewatch minutes 10:25–11:12 of “Apple’s Gold,” in which Nicholas Casey explains the gold supply chain. This is a concise explanation of a complex process, using simple narration and images to illustrate.

2. Learn about the supply chain of another resource in order to explain it to your classmates. Use one of these news stories to get you started:

3. Using evidence from one of the news stories above and at least two additional sources, create a video explaining the supply chain of the resource you chose, from its presence in nature to the hands of consumers. Using “Apple’s Gold” as a model, illustrate your narration with images. Be sure to include a bibliography at the end of your video to credit the sources of information and images.

Option 2. Share your recommendations

1. Revisit the recommendations you and your classmates came up with during your in-class activity. Which ones are standing out to you?

2. Write a letter to your local representative that summarizes “Apple’s Gold,” explains how the Colombian gold trade connects to your community, and lays out the action steps you would like to see your representative take. Use this template to guide your writing.

3. Enter your letter into the Pulitzer Center’s Local Letters for Global Change contest for the chance to be published and honored on the Pulitzer Center website and win $100 for your class. The fall 2019 deadline is November 15. Find full contest details and the Google Form for entries at pulitzercenter.org/localletters, and email education@pulitzercenter.org with questions or for support.

4. Alternative: Base your letter and recommendations on any of the suggested readings listed in Option 1, or any other news stories found here.

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