Thursday, November 20, 2008

List Serve

After the Sand and Sorrow showing, which went quite well I'd say, two people wanted to be added to the list serve. I don't know how to do this so I am going to put there emails here and maybe someone can add them.


P.S. Thanks everyone baked for tonight people loved everything!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mr. Marszalek's Class 11/12 - International Response to the Crisis

Today's class was about the international response to the crisis in Darfur and the impediments to humanitarian intervention.  Cait, Josh, and I started the class by presenting information about the Responsibility to Protect, the UN and UNAMID and the ICC, respectively.  We each wrote our main points on the white board, and some students took notes while we were speaking.  Then, we erased our notes and made 4 columns on the board (R2P, UN, UNAMID, and ICC).  We passed out different facts related to the four topics, and had each student tape his or her fact under its appropriate heading.  Overall, the students did really well with this activity.  They got a few of them wrong, but someone in the class was always able to correctly identify where the fact should have been placed. 

After doing the activity, we made three small groups and went over the discussion questions.  My group did really well with this part of the class - they were engaged, inquisitive, and talkative.  For the last few minutes of our small group discussions, we asked the students to identify some challenges or obstacles to humanitarian intervention and aid.  We reconvened as a class with about 10 minutes left to make a list of these obstacles on the board.  Among the things that the students brought up were: al-Bashir preventing non-African peacekeeping troops from getting visas, the severe problem of under-funding of the UNAMID force, the roadblocks inherent in the structure of the UN (the P-5 have veto power), and the lack of enforcement power of the ICC.

Josh, Cait, and I were impressed with how well the students conducted themselves in this class. I think they walked away with a lot of very useful information and a better understanding of why the genocide in Darfur is still occurring. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Lesson 5: Refugees and IDPs

On Monday, November 10th, Josh, Sondi, Meera, and I went into the classroom to the classroom to give the lesson on refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs). We began the class with each of us reading a personal account aloud. We asked them if they had heard either the term refugee or IDP before and if they knew the difference between the two terms. The students that responded had heard of the term refugee but not IDP and could not differentiate between the terms. 

We broke up into three groups and showed a short video on conditions within the camp. We then had the students read over the worksheet before we went over the discussion questions. Students asked critical questions, such as why these poor conditions continue to persist if the U.S. is aware of the devastating camps? In addition, many students were able to draw connections from our last lesson on rape and women, and students spoke of the mental effects of living in a camp. We went over the abridged version of the UN Declaration of Human Rights and determined which rights might be violated in refugee/IDP camps. 

Our intention was to have each group focus on a specific issue and then gather back as a whole class and have the students present to each other on what they discussed in small groups. The groups consisted of: relations between Sudan and neighboring countries, child soldier recruitment in the camps, and health services and the availability of  basic necessities in the camps. Unfortunately, we were short on time and were not able to fully complete this part of the class. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Lesson on Rape in Mr. Marszalek's Class 11-5-08

Cait and I went into Mr. Marszalek's class on Wednesday morning to discuss rape as a tool of war in Darfur.  It was a difficult lesson, but the class responded respectfully, and we felt that they were able to acknowledge the gravity of the situation.  We decided to make a large circle, as that had worked well for this lesson last year.  We began by distributing a different fact or personal account to each student and then we asked them to read their note cards out loud to the group.  This went fairly well, but we had to continually ask them to speak louder.

Cait and I then started asking them the questions on the sexual violence worksheet.  They were a little hesitant to speak in the large circle setting. We were able to maintain a question-and-answer style discussion fairly successfully, but we would have preferred more of a free-flow discussion like we often get in smaller groups.  

Reading and talking as a large group took the majority of the class, but we had time left to show them a short video clip about rape in Darfur.  Since youtube is blocked in the high school, Cait and I brought our laptops into the classroom and split the class in half so they could all see a screen. After watching the clip, we discussed separately in our two groups.  The students respond really well to media, and they asked very thought-provoking questions related to what they had seen.  One girl, Whitney, had an epiphany toward the end of class.  It was amazing to hear her talk about her realization that rape is used not just to harm the women, but to tear families and communities apart.

Overall, this was a rewarding class, and we feel that they now have a good grasp on the widespread use of sexual violence by the Janjawid and government officials in Darfur. Cait and I realized that it is difficult to only have two Wesleyan students in the classroom, and we would prefer at least three from now on. 

We're going into the classroom three times next week, so that should be really fun! Keep thinking about how to make these lessons even better for next semester :) 

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I Love Teaching!!! Lesson 3: The History of Sudan and the Gencoide

So I just wanted to write all of this down before I forgot. My group made excellent connections!

Today, Thursday the 23rd of October, We started of by having them review the UN definition of genocide. Josh reviewed that with them. Then Jeff talked about the Declaration of Human Rights. Then I gave a brief synopsis of the History and we had a map up on the board. After that we broke up into three groups. and we went through a worksheet on the history of Sudan. The got to understand the difference between Arabs vs. Non-Arabs. They learned the difference of who was fighting who in both the Civil War and the Genocide. 

The first hard concept was the imposition of Sharia Law in 1983. First they did not understand what it was and I gave them a brief definition. Then they did not understand the implications of imposing Sharia Law. And I told them that Sudan's population  is made up of mixed religions and not all Muslims are "orthodox" Muslims-there are secular Muslims. I asked them how would they feel as non-Muslims or as secular-Muslims if they suddenly had to follow Muslim law if they did not believe in Islam or practiced the Islamic faith to the full extent. That helped them understand why the Sharia Law incited more violence.

Then we talked about why the JEM and SLA rebelled in 2003. We talked about Sudan being rich in oil and the high demand of oil in the world. I showed them a map of oil reserves in Sudan and they noticed that a bulk of the oil is in Darfur and a bulk of the oil is in South Sudan! Then it made sense to them that the rebel groups and the South Sudanese would be upset with the governement for drilling oil and not redistributing the money. And then we talked about how Darfur was left out of peace talks and treaties between the North and the South and how the lack of representation annoyed the Darfur Citizens. We related that to "no taxation without representation" in the US Revolutionary War. That resonated with them.

Then the relationship between the Janjaweed and the government got hazy. And I was struggling to have them understand that though the Janjaweed are not government soldiers they are still funded by the government. Then one kid said  the Janjaweed were"henchmen" and they all understood the relationship!

The finally moment of supreme realization came when we were talking about evidence for the relationship between the Janjaweed and the government. I told them that although people know there is a relationship hard evidence is hard to come by. And one girl said "how could we then accept that there is a relationship?" and then she related the whole situation to a drug deal in which you know a person is a dealer but the police cannot convict or arrest until they see the drug dealer in the act and get the real hard evidence!

They made some great realizations today. I loved teaching today!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Marzalek's Class Again!!!

Yesterday (10/16/08) we started to teach again for the fall semester! We are teaching in Mr. Marszalek's class in the new Middletown High School! The students That i was working with were extremely engaged and surprised that they had not heard about Darfur when a genocide has been occurring there since 2003. One girl who hadn't heard of Darfur before was confused as to why the world could let this continue for so long. The first class entailed having the students watch "Voices From Darfur" and then fill out a handout that gave them a preliminary background to the conflict. It was a great first class. The students were engaged and by answering these questions and seeing the video they understood why we were coming into their high school class to teach them.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Banaa in the News!

Banaa was featured on the front page of the Washington Post on Tuesday, September 23rd. 

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mr. Marszalek's Class Monday 4/7/08

Gitsy, Sondi, Becca, and I went to Mr. Marszalek's class today and talked with the students about sexual violence as a tool of war. It was the first time the Monday teachers had stepped foot in his classroom. We opened up the class by having the students read 6 personal accounts. This really set the tone for the class. The students were respectful throughout the discussion. After they all had a chance to read the accounts on their own, we had them volunteer to read a few of the accounts out loud if the students felt comfortable enough. 3 accounts were read.

After we went through the accounts, each student read a fact about Darfur and sexual violence that ze was given at the beginning of class. 

The readings were then followed by questions that the students had and discussion questions that we posed to the group. The students got a grasp several concepts: how the government was failing to protect its citizens; how sexual violence has affected women as they do their daily chores; how few women actually speak out about sexual violence due to social restrictions, how sexually unsafe the IDP camps and the surrounding area's are; and how and why there are so few men.

The goal of this class was to have the students understand how sexual violence can be a war tactic. Based on the discussion it seemed that those who were talking were really beginning to understand the discussion. And those students who did not talk showed respect for the issue and seemed like they were absorbing the information. Their homework assignment should hopefully help them further fathom the uses of this war tactic. The homework was to research another conflict in which sexual violence was used as a tactic and write a paragraph on it. 

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Mrs. Bailey's Class (Friday, 4/4/08)

On Friday, Gitsy, Josh, Erica and I went to Mrs. Bailey's class again. The purpose of this class was to continue to go over what they need to do in order to be prepared to present in front of the middle school and 9th grade students this Friday.

The "What is Genocide?" group is presenting first on Friday (4/11/08). They have a slideshow with images from past genocides, a hand out, a poster with more photos, and they plan on showing a short movie clip from Hotel Rwanda. Their presentation will also include an genocide web and one student will present the definition of genocide.

Half of the "History and Current Situation" group will present on this Friday also. This will include a poster and map activity showing the students where Sudan and Darfur are. Through a powerpoint, some students will also present on the history of the conflict. They also have a poster with a timeline of important events. The following Friday the rest of the group will present--this will include current events and more photos, both through a powerpoint.

On Friday, 4/11/08, the "What Can You Do?" group will pass out a survey that they want to the middle school and 9th graders to complete and bring back the following Friday (4/19/08). On this Friday, this group will make their presentation.

We are going into class on Wednesday to finalize all details of the presentations.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Mr. Marszalek's Class: Week 1 & 2

WESTAND starting teaching a new MHS class last week. We will be teaching this class three times a week: Monday, Thursday, and Friday. We have modified the structure of the genocide education unit to include seven core classes:

Day 1: Introduction to Darfur, film Voices from Darfur

Day 2: What is genocide?

Day 3: History of Darfur and Sudan

Day 4: Women and girls- rape as a tool of war

Day 5: Refugees and IDPs

Day 6: U.S., U.N., and international response

Day 7: What you can do

Cait, Aurora, Audrey, and I taught on days 1 and 2. This Thursday (day 2) we handed out a one page information sheet explaining the history of the term genocide and the UNCG. We asked students to circle and underline any key phrases or words that stood out to them. We then led a class discussion. We also brought a world map to class and had students indicate on the map where past genocides have occurred. We told the students to limit the genocides to genocides that have occurred after the UNCG. The students were shocked by the number of genocides that occurred in the second half the 20th century.

Yesterday, Cait, Sondi, Maher, and I discussed the history of Darfur and Sudan with the class (day 3). First, we gave the students a short quiz on Darfur and Sudan. We then divided up into three groups and had the students exchange quizzes. We went over the answers to the quiz. The students then discussed the History of Darfur and Sudan Worksheet.

Monday we will be focusing on rape and women's rights.

Here are some video clips from the last two weeks:

Video-Students were asked to tell either a family member or friend about the genocide in Darfur

Friday, March 28, 2008

Week 6: Mrs. Bailey's Class

Only two more weeks until their first presentations!! Today Josh, Cait, Gitsy, Rebecca, and I met with Mrs. Bailey's class. We separated the students into their groups right away. Each student had to present the work they had done over the past week. Group leaders offered constructive comments and assigned additional tasks to the group members. We anticipated that most of the students would not come to class prepared, so we surprised them by making two groups present at the end of class. This way the students actually felt what it was like to be in front of the class and hopefully were motivated to construct well-designed and well-researched presentations.

Here is a brief description of the presentations:

What is genocide?

  • Genocide web
  • Definition of genocide
  • Slide show
  • Hotel Rwanda clip

History of Darfur/Current Situation/International Response

  • Power point presentation
  • Timeline
  • Poster board: maps

What you can do?

  • Survey (to be distributed by middle school students, collected on the second day of presentations, analyzed by Mrs. Bailey's class, and then sent to local newspapers/TV stations)
  • Poster listing 6 things a middle school student can to help end the genocide
  • Pamphlet with basic facts about Darfur, relevant resources, and ways to take action
  • Middletown Press op-ed letter template

Next week the other two groups will present. The rest of the class is supposed to offer advice and ask questions while observing the presentations. We are now communicating over email with our students, so we can offer them feedback during the week and answer any questions.

The Darfur refugee from Voices from Darfur is going to speaking at Middletown High School on May 7th!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Mrs. Bailey's Class: Week 5

This past Thursday, Gitsy, Rebecca, and I visited Mrs. Bailey's class. We began with a quick discussion about the newspaper article the students were assigned for homework. Then we divided the students into their presentation groups. We have two tentative dates scheduled for the WW students to visit Mrs. Bailey's class: April 11 and April 18. The WW class is composed of 6th, 7th, and 8th graders. There will only be about 8 WW students, so we might invite Mr. Charles' 3rd period class to attend the presentations (since his students have already learned about genocide they could help stimulate discussions). We asked Mrs. Bailey's class to consider who their audience is as they design their presentations. The subject matter should be presented in a straightforward manner, the material should be displayed in a visually pleasing way, and the presentations should be interactive.

The group work went very well. The students began to take the class more seriously once they realized these presentations were actually going to happen. They spoke about the challenges each presentation would face trying to capture the attention of the middle school students. After each member of the four groups was assigned a specific task to have completed by next week, we reassembled as a class. We asked the students to raise their hand and offer Darfur-related facts that they believed the middle school students should be aware of. This next Friday we will continue to work on the presentations, review the props/visuals that the students created, and have at least two of the groups stand up in front of the class and present the information they have collected.

Lastly, two students from the "What you can do" group designed a Darfur survey, which they already began to distribute. They are going to continue to distribute the survey and analyze the data. Once the students are finished analyzing the data, Rebecca offered to do a basic statistical analysis of it as well!

This week we have our first class with Mr. Marszalek's students!!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Week 4 Video Clips

Big thanks to Maher!

"What Do You Think About Boycotting the Olympics?"

How To Take Action

Ethnic Cleansing, Genocide, and Rwanda

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mrs. Bailey's Class: Week 4

Rebecca, Gitsy, Maher, and I visited Mrs. Bailey's class on Friday. Since it is Wes' spring break, we had a slightly different group of WESTAND teachers. We also asked Maher to film the entire class, so we have some great footage that I will post soon! We divided the class into their groups again (What is genocide, History, Current Situation/International Response, and What you can do) and we provided each group with a new set of documents and worksheets. Each group discussed the previous week's homework assignment. The students were supposed to research a few questions that related to their group's topic. Each group leader delegated responsibilities to the students in the group and facilitated the discussion. After approximately 25 minutes we asked students from each group to present a few of the ideas or key points they addressed in their groups.

The "What you can do" described two ideas they came up. One of the students, Alexa, is contacting different local news stations in an attempt to bring a reporter to MHS's campus during the Voices from Darfur assembly and during the WW class visitations. Another student, John, is designing a s survey about the current situation in Darfur with the help of a fellow student. They plan to distribute this survey to the entire school. Once they analyze the data they will send the results to local newspapers, radio stations, and t.v. stations as evidence that there needs to be more media coverage of the current situation in Darfur. The "History" and "Current Situation/International Response" groups spoke about the conditions in refugee camps and IDP camps. One student brought up the civil war between the North and the South. He also expressed his desire to organize a food drive to help the refugees and IDPs. The "What is genocide" group talked about the difference between ethnic cleansing and genocide and also related the situation in Darfur to the genocide in Rwanda.

We finished class with a 4 minute movie created by New England high school students called Projections. Their homework assignment for next week is to read an article by Enough's policy advisor Colin Jensen. They are also collecting more information for their WW presentations.

Hope everyone is enjoying their spring break! This week we are going to Mrs. Bailey's class on Thursday instead of Friday because of Good Friday---if anyone wants to join us!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Platt High School interview

When Kat and I attended the lobby day for the Teach Against Genocide bill we met a high school student from Platt High School who was very curious about STAND. After speaking with us about Wesleyan's anti-genocide student group, she decided to setup her own STAND chapter on her high school campus. She also expressed interest in helping WESTAND with our genocide education campaign at MHS and WWMS. Sondi and I met with her last Wednesday to answer her questions about STAND and offer her advice. She returned the favor by offering us advice on our campaign!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Mrs. Bailey's Class: Week 3

Cait, Gitsy, Erica, and I went to Mrs. Bailey's class yesterday. We began by asking the students to share their family members' or friends' responses once they told them about the genocide occurring in Darfur (last week's homework assignment). Three or four students raised their hands and shared moving stories. Most of the students told their parents and were surprised to discover that their parents knew very little about Darfur or genocide for that matter. One girl, Stacy, could not understand why the media coverage of Darfur was so sparse. She said her mom watches the news every morning with her cup of coffee, yet she had no idea that a genocide was occurring across the world.

We then divided the class into four groups and reviewed a worksheet we had them fill out the week before. The worksheet contained basic factual questions about the genocide. This activity was followed by a discussion about the UNCG definition of genocide. The students were asked to use examples from last week's film Voices from Darfur to support their arguments that genocide was and is occurring in Sudan. With fifteen minutes left in class, we switched topics and began to discuss their presentations. Each group was assigned a different topic with specific focus questions. The topics are: the history of the genocide in Darfur, the concept of genocide, the current situation on the ground in Darfur and the international response, and the role of students in the movement to end the genocide. Each group's homework assignment was to answer their group's focus questions.

This class did not go as well as we hoped; however, it was a good learning experience. We could tell that some of the kids in each group were not engaged and we might have introduced the concept of the presentations too soon. We found some great curriculum guides online and plan to consult them heavily this week (especially since we are on spring break and have some more time on our hands).

After Mrs. Bailey's class, Cait and I returned to MHS and gave a short ten minute presentation to Mr. Marszalek's Contemporary Issues class. We introduced our project and asked the students if they had ever heard of Darfur before. One girl said she knew their were a lot of refugees in Darfur because she watched a special on MTV. We will start visiting this class in roughly two and half weeks. Gitsy and I will be meeting with Mr. Marszalek this upcoming week and we will provide him with a hard copy of our curriculum guide.

One last exciting piece of news: we were able to organize a Voices from Darfur assembly at MHS. A darfur refugee is going to come speak about the current situation in Darfur and his experience living in Darfur. Eleven MHS social studies classes have been invited!!

Until next week...

TAG Hearing February 29

Caitlin and Sondi filmed me as I gave my testimony at the CT Education Committee's hearing for the Teach Against Genocide bill # 5595.

Brief video clip from last week's class

Here is a video clip of Gitsy responding to a student who did not believe China should be blamed for its involvement with Sudan.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Teach Against Genocide Bill

Yesterday, Kaitlyn, Sondi and I went to the hearing in Hartford where the Teach Against Genocide (TAG) bill was discussed by state representatives. Kaitlyn delivered a beautiful testimony, where she talked about our current campaign in the high school and the middle school. We also heard from CT high school students and other organizers (including a Holocaust survivor) who were in favor of the bill. The response from the representatives seemed to be supportive but there may be an expected issue with funding for the bill. We will keep you updated as we learn more about the bill's progression.

High School Update

Yesterday, Gitsy, Kaitlyn, Josh and I (Cait) went again to the high school classroom that we had visited two weeks ago (Mrs. Bailey’s class). We began by asking them if they had any questions or wanted to talk about the article that they had found relating to Darfur or genocide in general. One student had found an article relating to China and the 2008 Olympics. To paraphrase, he argued that he thought that China had the right to do whatever it wanted and to get oil from Sudan if that is what it wanted. Another student agreed with him.

We were all tentative to argue our opinions but Mrs. Bailey was not. She raised her hand to disagree with both of the boys. We suggested that we watch the film first and then continue to discuss the issue afterward.

We showed the film “Voices on Darfur,” a powerful fourteen minute long film with first-hand accounts by victims of the atrocities that they survived. It was great to watch the student’s faces as they watched the film—they were filled with emotions of sadness, surprise and anger. For many, this was the first time that they had seen visuals of what is occurring in Darfur.

We began discussing the film and fielding questions as one large group. With only ten minutes left in class, we broke into four different groups to further discuss the film. This proved to be really beneficial. Many of the more quiet students in class spoke up in the small groups and asked many questions. The two students that had argued in agreement with China changed their standpoint on the issue. One student commented that he “just [thought] that it was so dumb” that China continued to buy oil from Sudan if they knew what was going on.

We discussed what particular images and scenes stood out to them in the film and why. The film also placed on emphasis on activism and we discussed what they thought that they could do to help end the conflict and the violence. One group focused a lot on the map of the handout that we had given them, asking many questions about the surrounding countries’ involvement and questioning why these countries were not doing more to end the violence. The definition of genocide was not discussed at length.

We gave them a homework assignment of talking to at least one person about the situation in Darfur—asking them if they knew about it, discussing what they knew etc—and to be prepared to report back to us next class.