Thursday, 19 June 2014

Top 5 websites for teaching about conflict and genocide

August 2014 will mark the centenary of the start of World War I - the bloodiest human conflict the world had ever known. The theme of conflict and by extension, genocide, is on many minds. Have we learnt anything in the last 100 years?

Apparently not. Wars and genocides killed nearly 170 million people during the twentieth century,  and many more since.This makes for a sensitive subject, and one that poses many challenges when working out how to broach the subject in the classroom.

How do we make learning about genocide lively and engaging for students of all ages and abilities? How do we do this and still retain the respect such a subject deserves? And the big one – how do we make such horrific events relevant and meaningful to our students? After all, the death toll is merely that – a figure – and it can be very easy to detach ourselves from dry facts and long lists of statistics.

We've picked out what we think are the best 5 websites for teaching about conflict and genocide. A key theme threading its way through each and every one of them is that conflict and genocide is not at all a thing of the past. It’s happening now, it’s relevant to all of us, and there are things that we, as teachers, students and ordinary human beings, can do. 

It’s a lovely approach to take when teaching about war and conflict, and as well as a range of teaching tools, there are plenty of practical ideas on these sites for awareness-raising activities and initiatives that students might be motivated to set up in their own schools.

1. British Red Cross
The teaching section of this site is very philosophically inclined – most of the resources are aiming to develop students’ questioning and critical thinking skills.

You’ll find lesson plansassembly kits and a whole array of multimedia resources. Some of it is less relevant to conflict and genocide, but there are some fantastic lesson plans for a range of age groups, covering subjects such as:

There are some very poignant and compelling images here – great discussion starters.

Also worth a look is the 'Quick activities' section, which features a variety of unusual lesson starters and activities, including charming your way through a hostile checkpoint in a troubled country, exploring daily life in a war zoneand an interesting discussion on acting with humanity  and morality during war.

2. Children of Conflict
An offshoot of the BBC’s World Service, Children of Conflict is an awareness-raising initiative, and as such, aims to shock. It focuses on the stories of children who have lived and are still living through wars and conflict - in particular, child soldiers, lost children, wounded children, children running households (generally orphans with younger siblings) and child workers.

The information in each of the main sections is direct and simply put. A child with only moderate literacy skills would have no problem navigating the site and reading the information. You’ll also find quotes and stories from children all over the world here, all in the child’s own words, translated directly and shocking in their simplicity.

The majority of quotes are from school-age children between the ages of ten and 17, which should make them all the more thought-provoking and relevant to our students. It might encourage them to ask, ‘What would I do in their shoes? How would I feel? How could I cope?’

3. Hiroshima Remembered
A fantastic resource for any project or research assignment on the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this website tells the story right from the testing of the bombs all the way through to the Japanese surrender and beyond

There’s a substantial number of photographs, a couple of maps and a few short video clips of the explosion and its aftermath. You'll also find a selection of brief biographies of those behind the design, testing and dropping of the bombs – very useful, as the articles themselves don’t waste much time explaining who’s who.

If your students are investigating whether the bombings can be justified, then the 'Historical Documents' section is especially worth pointing them towards. In it, you’ll find a compilation of documents, including lead nuclear researcher Leo Svilard's petition to the president arguing against using his newly developed atomic weapon on innocent civilians, the White House press release on the Hiroshima bombingsand the personal reflections of President Harry Truman on giving the order to drop the bombs. A lot of interesting and thought-provoking resources here – the highlight of the site as far as we're concerned.

4. A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
A must visit for teachers of all key stages – and students too.

Aside from pages and pages of facts, figures, eyewitness accounts, photographs and lesson plans, you'll also find a massive compilation of multimedia resources such as photographs, video clips, music, maps, bibliographies and more.

Highlights include hundreds of primary source documents related to the Holocaust, and a collection of virtual reality movies. These virtual reality movies – essentially interactive panoramas – will take you and your class on a virtual tour around concentration camps, Nazi ghettoes and Holocaust war memorials. Especially poignant are the images from Majdanek camp and killing centre, which lead you through the final journey of the Nazi’s many gassing victims – beginning with the undressing room and ending in the crematorium. 

For many students, the Holocaust is a difficult thing to comprehend – these panoramas are an effective way to make it real, and might also stimulate some interesting responses through creative writing, drama or music.

5. Rwandan Stories
A striking site, Rwandan Stories traces the history of the Rwandan Genocide right from its origins, all the way through to the nation’s recent and rocky recovery.

The articles are clearly organised and categorised, and the information included is extensive.
There are some stunning photographs here, and a large number of fantastic video clips, the majority of which are around two to three minutes long, making them perfect for a classroom setting.

Highlights include ‘My friend the killer’, the firsthand account of a young woman who became friends with one of the interahamwe militia, and ‘A good man’, in which a young Rwandan man who lost over fifty family members during the genocide, recounts his grandfather’s murder.

The site is full of stories like these, and not only from journalists, relief workers and victims of the genocide either. The most interesting and unique aspect of this site is that it includes stories from those who participated in the genocide too – the killers. 

Their tales of brutal murder are chilling, but reading through, you realise that they are people too. It’s a sobering thought, and has such potential for deep exploration, especially with older students, providing a fantastic starting point for all sorts of philosophical enquiries into morality, prejudice and dehumanisation.

The killers speak

No comments:

Post a Comment