How can we help people in Haiti? (A short presentation for elementary school kids)

Haiti, February 5, 2010

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Last week I spoke about Haiti with 2nd through 5th graders at Willamette Primary School in West Linn, Oregon. We had a great discussion about Haiti's unique historical situation, the role poverty and governance play in disaster relief, and the relief to development cycle. These are complicated themes we talk about a lot here at Mercy Corps, and we tend to kind of take them for granted. It was a fun — and challenging — endeavor to distill these tricky subjects into a 45 minute curriculum for eight-year-olds.

Moreover, I'm no educator. I spend most of my day staring at a computer monitor, and when I do give the rare presentation, it's always to a room full of grownups; so I wondered if my usual strategies would work for kids. Lucky for me, my "usual strategies" are kind of loose-limbed. My only preparation is to know what I'm talking about, and to make about a dozen slides with (mostly) pictures, and a few lines of text. I always have an agenda but never an outline or notes.

Text on slides is intended to reinforce the agenda: usually ideas I want everyone to hold onto. Photos are props for discussion, e.g. "tell me what these people are doing" or "how are these two photos different?"

So by design I gave a slightly different talk to each class, one that evolved organically around questions kids asked, or themes we pursued collectively. Afterward, I wrote up my experience as "speaker's notes."

My presentation is embedded on this web page, and is publicly available on Google Docs (You can view my notes in the by opening the presentation in another window and choosing Actions > Speaker's notes.

If you're an educator (or just need to explain Haiti, development, global poverty, and Mercy Corps to someone in under 45 minutes!), you're welcome to use this presentation. And if you have feedback or suggestions for improvement, please leave a comment below.