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December 1995 - Issue No. #21 (p.15)

Global Awareness Workshop for Junior High Students

by Lara Nassau (Kosaka City, Japan)

I work as a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR) in Akita Prefecture. As such, I work in an office and not a school. I recently organised a Global Awareness Workshop for junior high school students at the local community centre. While the aim was global awareness, not English education (it was conducted all in Japanese), the three activities below could easily be adapted to the language classroom.

(1) Hunger / Poverty:Students were divided into four groups. Group 1 was given a compass, ruler, scissors, pens and paper. Group 2 was given a ruler, scissors, pens and paper. Group 3 was given pens and paper. Group 4 was only given paper. Group 1 had the least members and Group 4 the most. Each group had to make circles and squares of particular sizes for which they received money to buy food. The aim of the game was to provide food for each member of the group within a certain time limit. Obviously, Groups 1 and 2 were easily able to feed all their members, while Group 3 and 4 went hungry. The game represents the current state of the world, in which some countries have more resources than others. For those with few resources, (and many mouths to feed), a lot of people go hungry.

(2) Environmental Issues: We conducted two short debates, for which students had done prior research. The first was between woodchoppers and employees of a disposable chopstick factory. The second was on whaling with students taking the roles of whalers & members of the International Whaling Commission. These could of course be conducted in English.

(3) Peace: Students sat in a circle and were each given a blank sheet of paper. They then had to make a peace symbol out of the paper by folding or tearing it. Students made hearts, people holding hands, the Japanese characters for peace, etc. They then passed their peace symbol to the student next to them who had to turn it into a symbol of war. This time students made guns, bombs, etc. or just ripped the paper to shreds. Finally, the students passed the war symbol back to the original students who had to make peace out of the piece of paper again. The aim of the activity was to show that once war has broken out, peace is difficult or impossible to restore.

Action Peace! Peace Letter and Poster Project

by Gillian Pelton-Saito (Yokohama, Japan)

- Yokohama high school student peace messages

On October 28, a group of Urawa High School students in Saitama, Japan made efforts to halt nuclear testing by protesting in front of the French Embassy in Tokyo. One boy commented: "As a citizen of a nation that suffered nuclear bombing, I believe no country should be allowed to possess nuclear weapons." Another said, "I believe a great majority of people in the world are opposed to the tests. I want to serve in the cause to end the tests as quickly as possible." (Daily Yomiuri, Oct. 29, 1995)

What is significant is that these protesters are high school students - young people who care enough about our world to speak out for what they believe in: peace. Teachers often criticize Japanese students for not being motivated, for being unaware, for not speaking more in class. Perhaps if we talked more with our students about world issues, there would be more young people to join the Urawa students and speak out for what they believe in.

My junior and senior high school students have just completed a peace project inspired by the Urawa students. Over the past few weeks they have brainstormed about world issues, looked at photos of peace problems (wars, guns, bullying), given their opinions of nuclear testing and agreed or disagreed about the Urawa students' actions.

Together we watched a music video called "Give Peace a Chance" made during the Gulf War. It was performed by singers and musicians who sang about the global issues we face in the 90's with the appeal, "all we are saying is give peace a chance."

We followed the video with brainstorming about the United Nations, an organization trying to contribute to world peace. Students did a cloze exercise on the UN, completed a letter wishing the UN a Happy 50th Birthday, wrote peace messages and made peace posters. After they explained their posters and letters in English, I asked if I could send these to the UN. The answer was a resounding YES!

I urge all teachers not to be cynical, skeptical, reluctant or afraid of talking about global issues. In this year, the anniversary of WWII (and the legacy of nuclear weapons and war we must continue to confront), the current nuclear testing is evidence of the peace we have been unable to achieve. I urge teachers to give students direction (in the form of questions, pictures, songs and videos) and let them create their vision of what our world could be like if we gave peace a chance. As our young people prepare for their future and the responsibility of taking care of our planet, don't we owe this to them?


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Kip A. Cates, Tottori University, Koyama, Tottori City, JAPAN 680-8551
E-mail: Work Tel/Fax: 0857-31-5650