Feature

Global Landmine Awareness

Cathy Miller-Davis

As our inquiry continued, we learned more about landmines and the people affected by them. The students committed themselves to becoming proactive by sharing their new knowledge with others in the community. Jyoti continued to be involved in our inquiry, providing resources such as videos, CDs, games, and fabric to make banners.

Landmine Awareness Week

Our commitment to sharing our new knowledge became paramount when we realized that Canadian Landmine Awareness Week (CLAW) was set for February 26 to March 2, 2001. With Jyoti’s assistance, we planned a number of activities designed to share our work with others.

During CLAW, our grade 5 students presented their inquiry, using multimedia and oral presentations to grades 3 to 6 at our school and introduced several fundraising activities.
Special visitors included Christina Nelke, who works for the Swedish Red Cross developing and implementing mine awareness programs with children and communities in Yemen. This Mine Awareness Program, which Christine initiated in 1995, targets at-risk primary children in the south of Yemen and uses child-to-child techniques to protect children from the threat of landmines and unexploded ordnance. Christine shared her experience with us, using slides of children in Yemen, and gave us a book and a snakes and ladders type of game she had developed to help Yemeni children learn about landmines.

As well, Jyoti arranged for Dr. Anthony Chino from Hamilton to visit us. Dr. Chino spent a great deal of time in Croatia and has personally raised over $ 150,000 from large corporations for Coratian landmine victims. He used maps and diagrams to help us understand the conflict in Croatia and surrounding countries and told our students that they shouldn’t underestimate their ability to raise funds for a cause they were passionate about.

The week culminated in our setting up a booth at our school’s annual World Tour event, which draws several hundred people from our school as well as from the local community. The students created several display boards, made brochures to hand out, created a game for people to play, made fridge magnets, designed bookmarks and set up computers to share websites and show their multimedia presentations. A “shoe pile” represented the number of people who step on landmines each day. Students also asked people to sign an international petition encouraging the USA to sign the Mine Ban Treaty.

Crowds Greet International Youth Ambassador

Perhaps the most rewarding experience of our landmine project was the visit by Song Kosal, the International Youth Ambassador for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Known internationally for her desire to eradicate landmines, Song travels the world sharing her story and insights into developing a peaceful world. We met with her one Saturday in March 2001. Our gym was filled to capacity as community members and invited guests, including the news media, our school superintendent and Nancy Ingram, Mines Action Canada, Ottawa, poured in to hear her speak.

Song is now 17 years old, the fourth of eight children from a farming family living on the border between Thailand and Cambodia. When she was six, Song stepped on a landmine hidden in a rice field and lost her leg. Now she walks with a crutch. Song has twice tried to use a prosthetic, but finds the discomfort unbearable because so much of her leg had to be amputated.

Song was present when representatives from around the globe gathered in Ottawa on December 3, 1997, to sign and ratify the Mine Ban Treaty. At the same time, Mines Action Canada, as part of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (iCBL), launched the People’s Treaty, which supports a world completely free of landmines. Song was the first to sign this petition.

After visiting our school and speaking to our community, Song travelled to Washington, DC., where she presented over 150,000 signatures, including the petition from our school’s World Tour event, to a representative of the American government, urging it to sign the Mine Ban Treaty. Song also took the two banners we had made to Washington, where they were displayed at the ICBL rally.

The International People's Treaty/Petition, composed by Song, declares:

  • We want no more wars.
  • We want no more landmines.
  • We want no more mine victims.
  • We promise to work for peace in our world.

Students Lobby LI.S. President

Another powerful impact of our landmine awareness inquiry was our persuasive letter writing to President George W Bush. America will not sign the landmine ban treaty, in spite of the fact that 142 countries have now signed and 122 have ratified it. Every grade five student composed a letter to the President asking him to sign the Mine Ban Treaty.

Three months after they sent their letters, the students were excited to receive a reply. However, they soon realized that the President did not address any of the issues they raised in their letters. He wrote about using our talents to make the world a better place and to remember that reading is one of the best ways to expand your views of the world, increase your knowledge and create big dreams. Our students were aware that the President probably did not read their letters and that the response was likely written by his communications staff.

The President’s response also motivated a visit from Linwood Barclay, columnist for TheToronto Star, which resulted in an article “Students find little class in letter from George W”

One of our students told Barclay that “he didn’t acknowledge the fact that our letters were about landmines.” Our students were very upset with the large, machine-signed photograph of the President that was included with the response. “I didn’t want the signature on the picture. I wanted it on the Mine Ban Treaty!” one of the students told The Star columnist.

When we began our landmine awareness inquiry with our grade five students in January 2001, we could not have predicted or planned all the events, learning and activities that took place as our work evolved. Nor did we know that in June 2001 we would still be working on and meeting about our project. Our students have not let this issue go. On the first day of school this September, the students asked when we would be continuing our work on landmines. I have taught for 22 years and have never seen an issue raise so much concern, global awareness and proactive behaviour among students, staff and parents as this one has.

“Night of 1000 Dinners”

On December 4, 2001, our grade 6 students (last year’s grade 5 students) met in the library for lunch to participate in the “Night of 1000 Dinners” Project and to celebrate the fourth anniversary of the signing of the Mine Ban Treaty in Ottawa.

This dinner/lunch project was held in locations throughout Canada and the USA to raise landmine awareness and funds.

The “Night of 1000 Dinners” encouraged people to host dinners, on or around November 30, to raise awareness and funds for banning and clearing landmines. Our students made a voluntary donation to the Canadian Landmine Foundation.

At our lunch, we viewed a new video from the United States Campaign to Ban Landmines and talked about new landmine developments, new countries that have signed and ratified the Mine Ban Treaty, and focused on landmines in Afghanistan.

We want our students to know they can make a difference in the world. Our students will continue to deal with this global problem as adults and have the empathy and awareness to make a difference as caring Canadian citizens.

Grade 5 Learning Expectations

Language Arts

  • Use research skills (e.g. formulate questions, locate information, compare information from a variety of sources).
  • Read a variety of non-fiction materials.
  • Communicate ideas and information for a variety of purposes (e.g. to present and support a viewpoint) and to specific audiences (e.g. write a letter to a newspaper stating and justifying their position on an issue in the news).
  • Use writing for various purposes and in a range of contexts, including school work (e.g. to summarize information from materials they have read, to reflect on their thoughts, feelings, and imaginings).
  • Produce pieces of writing using a variety of forms and materials from other media.
  • Speak clearly when making presentations.
  • Discuss with peers and the teacher strategies for communicating effectively with others in a variety of situations.

Social Studies

  • What is Social Studies?
    [Students] learn about Canada and the role of citizens in a democratic society within a culturally diverse and interdependent world. They also acquire skills of inquiry and communication through field studies and other research projects: the use of maps, globes and models. Students apply these skills to develop an understanding of Canadian identity and democratic values, to evaluate different points of view.
  • The Importance of Current Events
    The study of current events forms an integral component of the social studies curriculum, enhancing both the relevance and the immediacy of the program. Discussion of current events not only creates student interest, but helps students understand their world.
  • The Importance of Inquiry/Research and Communication Skills
    In all grades in social studies, students will develop their ability to ask questions and to plan investigations to answer those questions. They need to learn a variety of research methods in order to carry out their investigations, and to know which methods to use in a particular inquiry. Students will be expected to distinguish between primary and secondary sources and to use them in appropriate ways.

Information Technology (Halton dsb)

  • Access and use information from a variety of sources.
  • Use simple search strategies to locate relevant information.
  • Use information technology to produce a product.

Clarksdale — Working Towards a Mine-Free World

Goals for Our Students

  • to develop landmine awareness.
  • to develop empathy for others.
  • to help students grow as global citizens.
  • to help students better understand and deal with violence and war.
  • to foster discussion of difficult issues and problem-solving skills.
  • to honour and remember the innocent victims of war.
  • to learn about Canada’s international role in the signing and ratification of the Global Ban on Landmines Treaty.
  • to help students know that they can make a big difference with big issues.
  • to help students be proactive and affect global change.
  • to give students real-life applications for their school studies and increase their learning potential.
  • to connect via the World Wide Web with other schools and sites relating to the worldwide movement to ban landmines.

Cathy Miller-Davis is a teacher-librarian at Clarksdale Public School, Burlington. Linda Richardson teaches a combined grade 4/5 at Clarksdale Public School. Canadian Landmine


Facts About Landmines

  • Landmines claim 26,000 victims a year, 72 people a day, one every 20 minutes.
  • 30 percent - 40 percent of mine victims are children under 15 years old.
  • There are over 350 different kinds of anti-personnel landmines.
  • Anti-personnel landmines are designed to injure or kill people by an explosive blast or from fragmentary metal debris.
  • There are an estimated 100 million landmines in the ground in more than 80 countries.
  • An estimated 100 million anti-personal landmines are stockpiled.
  • Landmines cost as little as $3 to produce and as much as $1,000 per mine to clear.
  • An estimated 100,000 landmines are removed annually.
  • 2-5 million landmines are planted annually.
  • The Mine Ban Treaty was signed in Ottawa on December 3,1997. To date, 142 countries have signed the treaty and 122 have ratified it.
  • Jody Williams, Coordinator of International Campaign to Ban Landmines for 1997, won the Nobel Peace Prize for 1997.

Landmines in Afghanistan

  • There are an estimated 8 to 10 million land mines in Afghanistan as the result of two decades of war.
  • The UN reports 732 million square kilometres of Afghanistan is littered with mines.
  • Demining Afghanistan has been suspended due to the recent bombing of the country.
  • Unless more active de-mining can take place, many civilians will be unable to return home for a long time.
  • UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan is concerned over the increased population movements, the effects of the ongoing military strikes and the possibility of fresh mining along new front lines.
  • The Pentagon changed the colour of airdropped food packets from yellow to blue after United Nations and human rights groups said they might be confused with the yellow canisters of unexploded bomblets from cluster bombs dropped in Afghanistan.
  • Cluster bombs used in Afghanistan contain 202 bomblets the size of soft drink cans. Each bomblet is powerful enough to damage tanks and kill people. 10 percent of the bomblets dropped fail to explode, littering the area and posing a constant threat until cleared.
  • Bomblets that fail to explode can still detonate when touched, picked up or stepped on.
  • Afghanistan will need emergency training programs for some 4,000 mine-action staff who will be faced with clearing cluster bombs.
  • The Mine-Action office in Kabul was damaged by a coalition strike, which killed four staff members.

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Project Overseas is a joint endeavour by the Canadian Teachers' Federation (CTF) and its affiliates across Canada. The project is designed to give professional assistance to fellow teachers in developing countries. Project Overseas 1 operates during July and August.