History of Mines and Mine Action
For some, antipersonnel landmines (or AP mines) do not immediately invoke images of Canada…
After the signing of the Ottawa Treaty, countries participating destroyed stockpiles of millions of AP mines. But the treaty did not ban landmines of all types…
In a previous blog post, I explained the difference between antipersonnel mines and other landmines or IED’s. As the second definition suggests, landmines derived their meaning from the fact that they are dug into the ground…
Mine Action in the Classroom
No, no, don’t look at the sky, they cannot do you any harm from above anymore. Lower your head because the danger is in your mother earth. If you have survived the war, try to survive the peace!
This grave warning comes from elementary school student, Melisa Dzanovic, from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Sadly, she’s right…
Lesson Plans for Landmine Education and Awareness
Educators that have tackled the issue of landmines in the classroom recommend being well prepared and ready to answer lots questions. Rebecca-Ho Foster, elementary school teacher and former Youth Mine Ambassador for Ottawa Ontario, smilingly tells the story of her all-time favourite discussion about landmines with a grade four class:
I was asked how much weight it takes to set off a landmine, so I said a few pounds. I was then asked if a kitten would set one off…and the suggestions started flying – a grasshopper? a snowflake? It was really great. Their minds were really working; they were thinking and wondering about the issue
Experienced landmine educators also recommend being ready for this issue to make an impact on students. Alison Clement, former Youth Ambassador for Winnipeg Manitoba, recalls a presentation she did in which she did not focus upon the idea that there are no landmines in Canada. As the students went out for recess, they stood on the side of the pavement and would not venture on the grass worried about possible landmines lurking in their schoolyard.
Be ready for students to want to take action on this issue. Experiences of past global educators show that students’ ideas on this issue take on a life of their own from making slide shows with music, to awareness banners, from fundraisers to demine land or to help survivors, to lobbying government officials. As Libia Von Poser, a mother in Brazil whose child was inspired by the landmine cause, once told the Canadian Landmine Foundation in an email:
They’re doing this with a lot of pleasure, because…we know about these mines that cause so many deaths around the world…Here in Brazil, thanks God, we don´t have mines, but we’re all concerned about this…God helps to solve this and maybe in the future our children will learn about mines only in old books.
Through proper education and awareness, we can all contribute to help eliminate landmines. It is up to us and to our children to make this generation the last in the world to walk with fear.
Activity 1: “I Thought We Could Play Here” (reprinted with permission from the Canadian Red Cross’ Survive the Peace)
All levels, 10 minutes
Set up several areas of the school or yard with reflective tape and “Danger: Landmines” signs. Make sure that these are places where students normally walk, gather, or play. Observe how students react to notices. Discuss the difficulties caused by “shrinking” travel routes and recreation/play areas.
A complimentary activity could be setting out everyday objects – pop can, child’s toy, pencil box, a ball…anything that students might be curious about before they arrive. They would then see these objects, perhaps be curious, and touch or move them. You could also “booby trap” desks with coloured stickers or place them on heavily-used areas of the floor.
Facilitator Debriefing Prompts:
- Ask how many people handled the objects. They could easily have been mines.
- Why would children in mine-affected countries pick up unusual plastic or metal objects? (Most toys are home-made from natural materials, many children work in fields.)
- Why would adults pick them up? (unaware of danger, selling scrap metal)
- Imagine how it must be for children in a community full of landmines, always having to be on guard.
Activity 2: “Just Try One Morning” (reprinted with permission from the Canadian Red Cross’ Survive the Peace)
Grades 1-6, 20 minutes
Students are informed that they will start the day at school by trying to identify and empathize with landmine victims. About 28% of mine victims lose one or both legs.
Students are given ropes or scarves which they use to tie their legs together at ankle level; or to immobilize one leg somehow. Other students are instructed to tie up one arm, go blindfolded or block up their ears to simulate the loss of an arm, eyesight and hearing. They then have to continue through their normal *morning activities with their sudden disability. After some significant time, discuss together the difficulties faced.
* This activity could be done for just a few minutes as well.
Facilitator Debriefing Prompts:
- Compare and contrast the activities of a North American child or adolescent with those from developing countries, where most mine victims live.
- How would farming, wood gathering, water collection, etc. be with only one leg or one arm?; without sign or hearing? Students could be asked to reflect on their morning experience.
- If you lost a leg or arm suddently, how difficult would it be for you to re-learn everyday tasks and activities? What would happen if you family was not able to afford an artificial limb?
- How might this disability affect the future of a landmine victim?
- Sarajevo, Yugoslavia was a modern European city, not unlike Canadian [and American] cities in many ways. Yet, during the war of the early 1990s, Sarajevo became infested with landmines. Try to imagine your city or town during a war. Where do you think landmines might be laid? Which parts of your community might become dangerous?
Activity 3: “Ideal City” (the inspiration of Noelle DePape, Youth Mine Ambassador from Winnipeg)
All ages, 20-30 minutes
Provide students with a large piece of paper and markers. Depending on the size, you may need to divide the group into two or more and have each group complete the task. Ask them to design their ideal city.
Depending on the level of the group, you may need to remind them not to forget the things a city needs: water, hospitals, housing, etc. Give them 10-15 minutes to complete the task.
Place “landmines” (perhaps pennies or red stickers) all over their city. For a variation, let each group strategically plant landmines on the other’s territory. For another variation, you may already have mines drawn on a piece of paper the same size as their city. Place the city over the mines paper and show the students that their city was mined (this variation brings in the idea of mines being hidden).
Facilitator Debriefing Prompts:
- How do people feel when their city is mined?
- How have their lives changed?
- Talk about places that are best to mine
- How many mines would it need to keep people away from a certain location (one, or none if people think there is one there, remember they are hidden.)
- What was the impact of having another city or country come in and mine your city?
- Read essays by children of landmines
- Design a landmine poster or slogan
- Make a call to the world urging leaders to stop the use of landmines
- Brainstorm ideas about developing new demining technology
- Sign the Youth Against War Treaty
- Fundraise for demining or victim assistance
- Build a shoe pile to remind everyone that mine victims rarely need both shoes
- Read a new fact about landmines every day for a week
A fantastic link to landmine sites of all sorts:
International Committee of the Red Cross – a wealth of information on the issue
International Campaign to Ban Landmines – where it all started. Go here for information and for a special youth section with the Youth Against War Treaty
Mines Action Canada
Cameron, Maxwell A., Lawson, Robert J., and Tomlin, Brian W. “To Walk Without Fear” in To Walk without Fear: The Global Movement to Ban Landmines. Eds. Cameron, Maxwell A., Lawson, Robert J., and Tomlin, Brian W. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Canadian Landmine Foundation
Canadian Red Cross. Survive the Peace. Ottawa, Ontario, 1999.
Human Rights Watch. Landmine Monitor: Toward a Mine-Free World, 2001. USA, August 2001.
Mines Action Canada: www.minesactioncanada.org (formerly Youth Mine Action Ambassador Program)
War Child website: www.warchild.org/projects/mines/human.html