Lesson on War and Children from Keitha St. Clair
The following lesson plan was created by Keitha St. Clair to be shared with
classrooms around the United States:
This lesson will be most effective if it follows a prompted discussion
about peace. I often bring in a newspaper clipping, a short abstract from
a current magazine, a movie clip, a poem, a piece of visual art, or a song
to begin discussions about world events. I then direct the conversation
toward the theme for the day. In this case, your goal is to grab their
attention, get them thinking, and send them on an
intellectual/spiritual/emotional journey regarding PEACE.
*Modify as necessary for age group
1. Define Terms / Discuss Findings:
Make sure that the students are familiar with the following terms:
Peace Violence Aggression Casualty
Collateral Damage Euphemism Propaganda
2. Ask the students to list three historical people that have been
advocates for peace. Give them five to ten minutes. Allow them to use
whatever resources are available. You might be surprised to find that most
of them are unable to name five. I have included a list of a few:
Dorothy Day co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement
Mahatma Gandhi spiritual leader / Indian liberator
Martin Luther King, Jr. American Civil Rights Leader
Ginetta Sagan founder of Amnesty USA
Jeanette Rankin member of congress that voted against WWI and WWII
Joan Baez Musician / Peace Activist
Cesar Chavez Mexican-American Civil and Labor Rights Leader
To learn about other peace heroes, visit
3. Discuss why the students might be having a difficult time thinking
of historical figures that promoted peace. Are they discussed as often in
the social studies textbooks as military leaders? Why? Do social studies
and literature teachers seem to have negative opinions of Peace
Activists? How do the students feel about this?
For more information about historical peace leaders:
4. Divide the students into 7 groups. Explain to each group that they
will be given a question or a quote. Each group will answer the question
and/or discuss the quote. Two people from each group will be asked at a
later time to share the question/quote and the group's thoughts/discussion
with the class. The teacher must determine how much time will be allotted
to this activity. I recommend AT LEAST 15 minutes to meet as a group and 5
minutes per group to present to the class. It is a good idea to provide
each group with a large piece of butcher paper and markers for brainstorming.
Assign each group one of the following:
1. The lives of religious leaders have been wonderful examples for
peace. Who are they? How did they react to violence? Can you think of
other religious founders/leaders that promoted peace? What were their tactics?
2. Who was Mahatma Gandhi? What were his thoughts about
violence? How did he attempt to bring peace to India? Was he
successful? What did he accomplish? For more information see the PBS
documentary series "A Force More Powerful" which addresses Gandhi's
nonviolent campaign in India.
3. "Peace begins when the hungry are fed." Is this a true
statement? How can poverty promote conflict? How can alleviating poverty
reduce the amount of conflict in the world?
4. "No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There is too
much work to do." This statement was made by Dorothy Day. She made it in
reference to peace activism and humanitarian work. What work is there to
do for an advocate of peace? Where does one begin in his/her attempt to
promote peace? What are some good resources to use in order to find
direction in one's attempt to become a peace activist?
5. "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he
does not become a monster." Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche shared this
thought with the world. What did he mean? What "monsters" are there to
fight today? How might you "become a monster" by fighting a monster? How
can you avoid "becoming a monster" and still overcome current
monsters? How do you determine who "the monsters" are?
Students can also explore Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's quote, "The line between
good and evil runs through every human heart."
6. "Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but
also internal violence of spirit. You must not only refuse to shoot a man,
but you must refuse to hate him." Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Have you
experienced "internal violence of spirit?" What are some forms of
"internal violence of spirit?" What are some things that influence us to
feel unnecessary "internal violence of spirit?" What is the best way to
overcome such influences? Does anyone ever commit external violence
without first feeling internal violence? Explain your answer.
7. "You must be the change that you wish to see." Mahatma
Gandhi What does this mean to you? If you wish to see peace on earth,
what must you do to promote that? Be specific in your answer. What will
you do TODAY to start this process of change?
*At the end of brainstorming and discussing, two members from each group
should bring their butcher paper to the front of the room and share their
ideas/thoughts. This can lead to classroom discussion that can continue
for as long as the teacher wishes. Students can also journal at the end of
class. This is a very productive way to mentally organize the key points
of the lesson for the students.
5. Who are the victims of War? Children and other innocent civilians
make up the majority of casualties in war. Download visuals at
www.nomorevictims.org or http://www.documentaryphotographs.com. Share the
story of Isra Abdul Amir.
Her name is Isra Abdul Amir. She was walking home from school one
day January 25, 1999, to be exact when a bomb dropped by an American
plane hit exploded near her. It blew off her right arm. Her life will
never be the same.
Discuss the following questions:
1. What is "collateral damage?" Where did the term come from? Why do
you think the term was invented to describe harm inflicted on civilians in
2. Who was Timothy McVeigh? When Timothy McVeigh blew up the
Federal Building in Oklahoma City, many children were killed. McVeigh
referred to them as "collateral damage." The children's family members
responded with anger and pain when he applied this term to their loved
ones. Why do you think they were angry and hurt? Do you think Timothy
McVeigh was responsible for killing their loved ones? How does the crime
of bombing the federal building relate to an attack on Iraq?
3. How do we judge moral responsibility for an act? For example,
let's say that you are throwing rocks at a telephone pole. That's your
target. And let's say that cars are parked near the telephone pole. You
throw a rock that misses the telephone pole and hits a car, shattering its
windshield. Are you responsible for breaking the windshield? What are
"anticipated consequences"? Are you responsible for the anticipated
consequences of your actions? In the example above, who should pay for the
windshield? The person who owns the car, or the person who threw the rock?
Peace Education Coordinator
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation
1187 Coast Village Road, Suite 1
Santa Barbara, CA 93108-2794
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click here: https://www.sbwh.com/wagingpeace/mbrshp.html