Voices That Need to be Heard

Based on the exhibition cit.i.zen.ship, exhibited at Photoville from September 13-23, 2018 in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Presented by NYU, curated by Lorie Novak, Deborah Willis and Riana Gideon

Photograph by Aisha Conte, Self-Portrait

Lesson Overview

Students will identify and research a current event of personal interest in order to ultimately design an image and text presentation on the topic.

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Identify and research a current event topic
  • Collaborate in a group discussion to pool resources
  • Create a photo story and presentation to develop a narrative

Session 1: Intro

  1. Have a class discussion on citizenship.
    1. What does citizenship mean?
    2. What is required of you as a citizen?
    3. What rights are expected for citizens?
    4. Why is citizenship important?
  2. Ask students “What are pressing issues of interest to you?”
    1. What do you observe happening in your environment?
    2. What’s relevant to you, your friends, your families and your community? 
  3. From these personal interests, conduct a mind mapping discussion to discover and uncover the network of issues that matter to them. Connect their experiences back to current events. Issues may be civil rights, protests, environmental issues, LGBTQ rights, immigration, race and class issues, gentrification, voting rights, disability rights, health care, freedom of speech, etc.
  4. Divide your students into groups of 3-5 based on their topic of interest.
  5. View a few sample photos taken by teen photographers for cit.i.zen.ship. Ask your students
    1. What issue(s) does this image portray?
    2. What message does this photo communicate about the issue?
    3. What is the call to action raised by the image?

Session 2: Research

  1. Have each group to research their issue. Here are sample prompts or angles to research:
    1. Historical: What is the history of activism around this issue?  
    2. Current Events: What’s going on now with this issue? Find and summarize current news articles.
    3. World View: How does this country’s policies around this issue differ from other countries around the world?
    4. Debate/Opposition: Research the opposing viewpoints on this issue. Compare and contrast.
    5. Community: What are the populations affected by this issue? How are they affected?
    6. Personal: Who are individuals who have taken a strong stance on this issue? What are their personal stories?
  2. Homework: Ask each group to summarize their research in a one-page briefing on the issue.

Session 3: Interviews


  1. Students pair up with someone that they don’t know well. Ask each other:
    1. Who is the most interesting person in your family? Why?
    2. Tell me one story about that person.
  2. Students now pair up with a new partner and share:
    1. The story you just heard.
    2. Two follow-up questions you have after hearing this story.
  3. Share out the follow up questions with the whole group.
    1. As an interviewee, what things did your interview do to make you feel comfortable to share more? Discuss verbal and nonverbal signals that opened up conversation. Were there specific words that helped?
    2. As the interviewer, what was difficult about the process of gathering the story and retelling it to someone else? How did you overcome those difficulties?
    3. As the viewer/listener, did you feel like you got a complete story? What were you left wondering?
  4. As a full group, solicit and record on chart paper/the board 3 golden rules for interviewing (i.e. what should we do to make our interviewee comfortable and respected?)



  1. Students will interview each other about their personal experience with these issues, as well as interview someone from the public.
  2. Ask the groups to split into pairs to interview one another about their personal perspective on the issue. Here are some sample questions:
    1. Why was this issue most relevant to you?
    2. How have you, or your community, been affected by this issue?
    3. What change would you like to see around this issue, and why?
  3. Ask each student to think of one person outside the classroom that they’d like to interview about this issue. It could be a friend, family member, neighbor, or community member. Here are some sample questions:
    1. My class is doing a research project about the issue of XX. How does this issue affect you or your community?
    2. What change would you like to see around this issue and why?

Session 4 & 5: Visual Storytelling

  1. Your students will create a final visual component around this issue. Based on the focus and the resources available in your classroom, decide on the final output you want your students to create. Examples include:
    1. Photographs
    2. Video
    3. Found Photos
    4. Collage
    5. Oral Histories
  2. For inspiration, refer back to the cit.i.zen.ship Image Bank with artwork by teen photographers for inspiration, as well as the additional Key Images.

Session 6: Share & Reflect

  1. Make space for students to share their pieces in a culminating event, such as a gallery walk or presentation. Ask students to reflect on their own work and share:
    1. Why was this issue most relevant to them?
    2. What is something new they learned about the issue through this project?
  2. Once all groups have presented, ask students to select another issue to write a reflection. Within the reflection, include what could be done, and what is a potential call to action for citizens.

Standards Addressed


Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.


Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.


Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.


Conduct short research projects to answer a question, drawing on several sources and refocusing the inquiry when appropriate.


Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources; assess the credibility of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and providing basic bibliographic information for sources.

NY State VA:Cr1.1.6

Collaboratively exchange concepts and different points of view to generate innovative ideas for creating art.

NY State VA:Pr5.1.6

Analyze and evaluate the reasons and ways that an exhibition is presented

NY State VA:Pr6.1.6

Assess, explain and provide evidence of how museums or other venues reflect the history and values of a community.

Educators Abby Verbosky, Colby Katz, Judith Ryan, Gordon Baldwin, Riana Gideon and Lorie Novak

Featuring work by teen photographers Ruby Simon, Leonely Pacheco, Aisha Conte, Julie Lozano, Ryan Lefthand, Thais Legrand

Grade Level: 6th – 12th grade
Subjects: History, Art, English Language Arts, ESL, Government, Social Studies
Time Required: 10 class sessions

Materials Needed:

  • Camera or cell phone
  • Computer
  • Writing materials

Additional Resources:

Sample Mind Maps

This lesson plan was created during United Photo Industries’  Fall 2018 Teacher Professional Development Day.

Many thanks to PhotoWings for supporting UPI Education!