Now Live! Everyday Projects Curriculum Lesson 1

Everyday Projects Education Curriculum

Produced by Everyday Projects in partnership with PhotoWings

We’re excited to bring you a new curriculum created in partnership with The Everyday Projects!

The curriculum utilizes photography to encourage middle and high school students to learn about stereotypes, representation, journalism, and truth in storytelling.

Over the course of ten classroom sessions, students will gain a broader understanding of life around the world, and can then apply those lessons to their own lives and help control of the narrative of their own homes and communities. In the process, they will become more aware and discerning news consumers and global citizens while learning practical photography and journalism skills.

In doing this we help create new generations of storytellers and audiences that challenge stereotypes that distort our understanding of the world and recognize the need for multiple perspectives in portraying the cultures that define us.

Common Core Standards

  • CCRA.R.2: Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
  • CCRA.R.3: Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.
  • CCRA.R.4: Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
  • CCRA.R.7: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.3: Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.

Teacher Preparation


  1. In advance of the lesson, teachers will look up news articles about their community/region, drawn from local, regional, or national outlets. These will be used in Part 2 to demonstrate to students how their home is portrayed by others, and to spark a discussion about whether or not these portrayals are accurate.
  2. Have this Lesson 1 Teacher Presentation PDF ready to display, either online or downloaded onto your computer.
  3. This lesson includes several moments for group discussion. The Lesson 1 Activity Document can be useful for facilitating those discussions. You should save your students' answers from this lesson, as you will refer back to them in later lessons.
  4. If you are planning to have a class exhibition, a reminder that you should be planning that from the beginning of the unit. Refer to the Exhibition Guide for more information.

Online Media:




Lesson 1: Defining Community, Stereotypes, and Representation

Length: 45 min
Learning Objectives Students will:

  • Evaluate how different communities or issues are represented in the media and how that representation relates to actual everyday experiences in those communities.

  • Develop a definition of “stereotype” — what does it mean, how might it impact them and others, how does it relate to what they see in media, etc.

  • Construct questions about a community/issue that will guide future inquiry.

Part 1: First Impressions – 25 minutes

Photo of Accra, Ghana by Nana Kofi Acquah; Grand-Bassam, Ivory Coast by Peter DiCampo; and Lagos, Nigeria by Yagazie Emezi

Step 1: Students will brainstorm their impressions of Africa and discuss perceptions of the continent as seen through various forms of media. 

1. Establish the students’ perceptions. Ask: “What do you think of when I say Africa?” Write the words volunteered by students on the board, about a dozen or so. You can also have them write their words individually on Part 1A of the Lesson 1 Activity document.

❖ Teacher Note

Stress that there are no wrong answers. Any and all thoughts and impressions are welcome. You want the very first thing that comes to mind. You want them to go quickly, off the top of their heads.

Student responses to the question “What do you think of when I say Africa?” in several classrooms

Step 2: Consider photographs of Africa — first a set of images that fit conventional stereotypes, followed by a set of images from Everyday Africa. Students will discuss their observations, comparing them to their initial impressions of the continent from the start of the class.

1. Visualize the stereotypes. Run through the “Stereotypical Photos of Africa” in the Lesson 1 Teacher Presentation PDF, spending enough time on each photograph to allow the students to absorb and think about each image.

2. Visualize the counter narrative. Now run through the Everyday Africa photos in the same presentation, again spending enough time on each photograph to allow the students to absorb and think about each image. (Or, if you’ve already had a chance to look at Everyday Africa on Instagram, you could pick some of your own favorites from there.)

3. Discuss the photographs. Lead a discussion with the students about what they see in the photographs. You can have students write down what they observe on Part 1B of the Lesson 1 Activity document, including patterns, unique elements, themes, interests, curiosities, and other general observations.

Possible points of discussion:

  • How are the two groups of images different?

  • What did you find surprising in what you saw in the photographs?

  • What differences and/or similarities did you notice between the class perceptions as relayed through the responses at the start of the class and what you saw in these two groups of images?

  • What kinds of problems might arise out of these kinds of perceptions?


★ Check-In

Part 1 of the Lesson 1 Activity document

Student thoughts after seeing a selection of Everyday Africa photographs


Part 2: Impressions of my community – 10 minutes


Google Image search results for “Chicago”, “Washington DC”, and “New Orleans”


Start by quickly touching on what stereotypes are. Probably the word has already come up by now — if it hasn’t, this is a good time to introduce it. The students will now move from considering media coverage and stereotypes of Africa to an analysis of media coverage and stereotypes of their own community.

1. Begin this section of the lesson by underscoring the ways the material you’ve been working through so far has been about stereotypes, and tell the students that now you’re going to see what happens when you apply this kind of analysis locally.

2. Engage in a version of the “What do you think of when I say…?” exercise, but this time about the school’s community, or the communities in which your students live. Start by asking what they think of when they think of their community, then ask what they think others think of when they think of their community. Make a list of words for each question. You can also have students write these down on Part 2 of the Lesson 1 Activity document.

3. Show the students the news headlines/articles/photographs you’ve found from their own community or region. Sometimes it can be useful to simply do a Google image search for your city/state/region, as these often show the most stereotypical images of a place. The sources for this can be local, national, or international news sites, but could also be other forms of media — TV shows, films, videos, etc. You can share these items with the class from your computer on an overhead projector or hand out copies of newspapers or magazines.

4. Lead a discussion with the students that explores any stereotypes found in the pieces of media you’ve shared. Discuss the ways in which the stereotypes are accurate or inaccurate, and the ways in which they might be harmful/misleading.

★ Check-In

★ Part 2 of the Lesson 1 Activity document

★ Do a Think-Pair-Share of community stereotypes. Answers can come from class discussions, research, or general knowledge. Students can give a thumbs up if their partner was able to name a stereotype about their community.


❖ Teacher Notes

❖ The Everyday Africa examples are effective because they tend to be obvious, once you’ve worked through the exercise. The idea now is for the students to begin the process of looking at different forms of media with fresh eyes — to begin to think critically about what they’re seeing, reading, and watching. Applying these critical thinking skills to media from their own community/region is the first step toward being able to go out and tell local stories of their own that rise above typical stereotypes.
❖ It can be effective here to refer back to the list of the students’ first impressions of Africa, as a way of demonstrating that people don’t just misperceive Africa — it happens everywhere, even here at home.
❖ It’s important that the students understand that the use of stereotypes in media can be harmful — promoting laziness in the creation of journalism or other forms of media, and disparaging people in ways that promote discrimination and other forms of inequality.

Part 3: A Call to Action – 10 minutes

Student exhibitions: Everyday DC with the Pulitzer Center (left and center photo) and Everyday Bronx with the Bronx Documentary Center (right photo)

This is where the thrust of the rest of the curriculum is laid out. You want your students to leave this first session full of new thoughts on how media is made, and full of new ideas and inspiration to go out and improve upon it. This is also the moment to tell your students that the unit will wrap up with a physical exhibition of their work — an opportunity for peers, family, and other members of their community to see and interact with their photography and the stories they want to tell. Hopefully this will get them even more excited about this project!

1. Have the class work together to come up with a well-articulated definition of “stereotype.” If it’s helpful, they can write an individual definition on Part 3 of the Lesson 1 Activity document.


★ Check-In

Part 3 of the Lesson 1 Activity document

2. Once the class has agreed on a definition they like best, write the final definition on the board. This will be the definition referred back to throughout the curriculum, and it is always up for debate — encourage students to think about the term and the definition, and make clear that they can suggest changes to the definition at any time throughout the sessions.


★ Check-In

As individuals or in small groups, create a concept map illustrating everything learned today about stereotypes. This could also be done in future lessons.

3. Explain to students that over the next several weeks they will be digging more deeply into stereotypes, how journalism is made, and the importance of truth in storytelling. These are issues that can be worked through using numerous forms of media — but for this curriculum we’ll be using photography. They’ll be learning about photography as a storytelling tool, and they’ll be going out into their own communities to use their newly learned skills to tell true stories about their lives through images — images they will use to create their own personal photo projects as well as a class-wide photo project that will be shown as a public and/or school exhibition. This exhibition will be the main output of the class’s Everyday [Your School/Town] project.

4. Best of luck as your students tell stories about their community! We'll be excited to see the results!


❖ Teacher Notes

❖ The creation of your class Everyday project can take numerous forms. A public exhibition of the students’ work — held at school or at a local community center — is a crucial part of the curriculum, and should be considered the main creative output, if holding an exhibition is possible. Depending on your bandwidth and school budget, this can be as simple as student photographs printed on plain paper and hung on a classroom wall, or it can be professionally printed and framed student photography, displayed at a local art gallery (or anything in between). Have a look at the Exhibition Guide that we put together to help in this process. There are some decisions about your exhibition that you will want to make early on in this process, including where to hold your class exhibition, how to display the photography, and more.

❖ Through the creation of the exhibition the students will learn numerous storytelling and critical thinking skills, and will have to apply what they have learned about stereotypes and misperception. The unit builds toward the final exhibition by asking the students to think not only about how they make their photographs and put together their own personal projects, but how they sequence them with the photographs of others, all working toward the goal of telling a powerful and nuanced story about their community. The exhibition will also be an opportunity for other people — their friends, peers, parents, and other members of their community — to come see and interact with their work.

❖ Another helpful resource may be for you to view these blog posts from the Pulitzer Center and their very successful Everyday DC project. These two posts touch on the process of many schools working together to curate and hold an exhibition, themes that students wanted to include, and more. See Everyday DC: The 2nd Annual Photography Exhibition and Virtual Gallery: The Fourth Annual Everyday DC Exhibit.

❖ “Everyday [Your School/Town]” could become a visual art project at the school that students work on every year, perhaps in conjunction with the school’s yearbook or newspaper, perhaps augmented with a presence on Instagram. The creation of an Instagram feed could give life to the project that goes beyond your initial group of students and their work with the curriculum. This is an invitation to your students to join the global community of storytellers that make up The Everyday Projects. Some Instagram accounts, like @everydaycoolidge, are run by a teacher or teachers and continue to showcase the work and life of their students/school. Others, like @everyday_flint or @everydaybronx, started as student projects, and then evolved to become projects led by a group of local photographers. Starting your own Instagram feed could also potentially lead to your students’ work being featured as re-posts on @everydayeverywhere or another official Everyday account (see the Everyday Africa / Everyday Mombasa example below). If you want to start an Instagram feed, have a look at this Instagram Guide with a few things for teachers to consider if starting a school or classroom Instagram account, and this Starter Guide that we distribute to anyone launching a new Everyday project.

This curriculum is produced by Everyday Projects, and presented in partnership with PhotoWings.