Iowa Public Television



posted on September 14, 2012


FRONTLINE is an in depth public affairs documentary series covering the scope and complexity of the human experience. The series never shies away from controversial issues or complex stories.  Access full documentaries, background information, and interactive features on a number of current event subjects, all of which affect your students in some way. From Martin Smith’s on-the-ground reporting in Obama’s War to Michael Kirk’s investigation into the hidden history of the financial crisis; from Ofra Bikel’s examination of America’s racial divide over the O.J. Simpson verdict, to special reports like The Age of AIDS or Bush’s War, and provocative journeys like Hedrick Smith’s search for the answer to the question, Is Wal-Mart Good for America? FRONTLINE explores public affairs that can help deepen and enrich your students’ understanding of the world.

Though the primary focus of FRONTLINE is news and public affairs the website offers hundreds of resources that will appeal to social studies, language arts, economics, government, and even science teachers. FRONTLINE provides online videos, behind the scenes interviews, interactives, lesson plans, and a whole lot more. IPTV has aggregated a wide-ranging list to help you get started with the site. Once you feel comfortable with this, we encourage you to start exploring on your own and share what you find with us.

Navigation of the Site

Watch: There are over 100 full programs online ranging in a variety of topics that include education, business, the environment, social issues, biographies, economics, and the media. Clicking on any video will take you to a page with additional resources, related videos, documents, and a variety of other resources.

Teacher Center: The teacher center offers classroom activities with streaming video, downloadable lesson plans, and web-exclusive resources to accompany FRONTLINE programs in the classroom. You can browse by subject area and find additional resources to help enhance your lessons.

Featured Resources and Videos

Inside the Meltdown

inside the meltdown

On Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008, the astonished leadership of the U.S. Congress was told in a private session by the chairman of the Federal Reserve that the American economy was in grave danger of a complete meltdown within a matter of days. Help you students better understand this complex historical event. Watch the full program online. Explore an interactive timeline to better understand how the U.S. got into the sitution in the first place, listen to audio clips, and find other reasources.

Lesson Plan: This guide is intended for classes in social studies, civics and government, economics, business studies, mathematics, current events and history; grade levels 9-12. This lesson on individual borrowing begins with a review of terms and an introductory activity that provides important background and context. The main lesson focusing on mortgages and individual borrowing builds from the film Inside the Meltdown. You can modify the lesson to accommodate instructional time and student abilities.

  • Gain an overview of the mortgage process from both the buyer's and lender's perspective.
  • Learn about credit scores and prime/subprime mortgages.
  • Understand how leverage works in the mortgage process


digital nation

How do you educate children for the digital age. This program is perhaps better suited toward professional development, but there are a great number of resources to help you learn more about life on the virtual frontier. From studies that show how technology affects students’ concentration, to how different forms of technology can help students literacy skills, to the world of education and school, this documentary offers insights into the ever increasing presence of technology in our lives.

Lesson Plan: FRONTLINE had developed materials for teachers, parents, and kids to accompany Growing Up Online. These resources include downloadable viewing guides for parent and for teachers that includes a seven-part discussion question section, lesson plans for the classroom, resources for building parent-teen online engagement, and a Cyberquiz: "What Kind of Cyber Guide are You?" that explores parents' media management styles.

  • Practice public speaking skills by presenting in a news journalism format
  • Investigate the terms target audience, datamining and advergame

The Vaccine War:

vaccine warVaccines have been touted as one of the most successful advances of modern medicine, yet an increasing number of parents are choosing not to vaccinate their children because of possible side effects. In this video chapter from The Vaccine War, students will examine the debate among public health officials, doctors and parents around vaccine safety and hear differing perspectives on the benefits and risks of vaccination.

Lesson Plan:  For classrooms studying health, biology and government, FRONTLINE provides a set of themes and discussion questions to help students analyze and understand key current events. Watch the video clip and start a discussion that examines the debate over childhood vaccination. Go further into this topic with The Vaccine War Lesson Plan, which models how disease spreads in a community with and without vaccine immunity.

Additional Resources

PBS LearningMedia and Frontline: If you're looking for contextualized learning objects, PBS LearningMedia may be a solution for you. Find hundreds of purpose-built learning objects on a range of topics and subjects that revolve around FRONTLINE videos and resources.


Tags: current events documentaries education education reform educators Language and Literacy literacy social issues Social Studies stories teachers technology video

Subjects: Literacy & LanguagesSocial Studies


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