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.