Learning From War: What is the Best Response to Injustice? Pt. 2

By Pattie Sloan and Joan Flora

In continuing our work with The Other Side of the Sky by Farah Ahmedi and Tamim Ansary from last week’s post, What is The Best Response to Injustice?, we offer a parallel lesson and project on land mines.   


By the way, Webster’s Dictionary spells it “land mines,” although we’ve seen the term published as “landmines” and “land-mines.”  The hyphen doesn’t make any damn sense to us (See?  We can be uppity when provoked), but we may have been tempted into a one word version of it during low caffeine moments. 

Purpose: using The Other Side of the Sky to raise the social awareness of your students and enable to them to contribute to change in their school, community, and global community.



  • Are there lasting effects of war on a population?  If so, what could lasting effects be?  How could those effects impact people?
  • Does war end when the soldiers go home?
  • Do you know anyone who served or continues to serve in Afghanistan?

We recommend a five-ten minute focused write on one of the questions, depending on students’ writing stamina.  Once students are finished writing, have them put a star or an asterisk next to the part of writing they think is the strongest.  Maybe they’ll have two stars / asterisks.  That’s good, but they must have at least one.  Some students will resist this move because they think they can’t write.  Tell them to lower their standards and mark a best part.  Be firm.  It’s for their own good.  In addition, have them bracket a section that they’d revise, if given the chance.  They won’t have to revise because this is low-stakes writing to get them thinking, but we do want them to pay attention to their writing process, and this is an easy, 30-40 second move to practice a bit of metacognition.  If you want to have students share with each other at this point, fine.  See our post from last week, What is The Best Response to Injustice? to learn how to facilitate students share their writing–or just have students read their starred / asterisked section if they are already accustomed to reading their writing aloud.

In addition, we’d pull together a slide show of images of a country after a war–maybe 10-15 slides and let students write for 3-7 more minutes on one of the prompts from above (yup, they can change prompts; yup, it can be a creative response, such as a poem, an imagined dialogue; yup, there’s is no wrong way to approach this, except by not writing).  As you write frequently in your classes, your students will come to know these moves, and it won’t be as much work for you.  Our students feed us with their rich writing because we facilitate it and get out of the way.  How did we learn such amazing writing moves?  See Northwest Writing Institute and Oregon Writing Project.  Take a class.  It’s good for you.

Land mines


  • If you skipped the slide show images above, have students search Google images for pictures of land mine victims.
  • Study war injuries.  How have ordinary people’s lives been altered by becoming casualties of war?
  • Who seems to be most affected by a war? (Hint, it’s typically poorer, rural people).    Why?   What does this do to attempts to rebuild after war?


Know the Mines:

  • Cluster bomb and its dangers
  • Land mine and its dangers


  • What would happen if someone in our class lost a limb? What different implements would they be given to compensate for the loss?
  • How is that treatment and compensation different in a Third World nation?


Active organizations to research:

  • PeaceTrees VietNam is a Seattle-based humanitarian organization working in Central Vietnam to assist those whose lives and livelihoods are threatened by remnants of war. They sponsor demining and mine risk education, survivor assistance, and community building projects, such as kindergartens and libraries, in partnership with the people of Quang Tri and Quang Binh Provinces.
  • The HALO Trust is a non-political, non-religious NGO that specializes in the removal of the hazardous debris of war. This agency currently has over 8,000 full-time staff in 16 countries and territories, with on-going surveys into new regions. By September 2013, twenty-five years after founding HALO, here are some important milestones:
  • Over 1.4 million land mines destroyed
  • Over 11 million items of larger caliber ordnance destroyed
  • Over 208,000 cluster munitions destroyed (please see site for more milestones)
  •  War Child in England works throughout the world to remove the land mines left behind.
Land mine detecting rats are trained in Tanzania to clear large areas.

Land mine detecting rats are trained in Tanzania to clear large areas.

Educators’ Challenge:  How can we involve our students?  Students can and do create great change.

Possibilities to raise funds for the agency of students’ choice:

  • Host a walk-a-thon
  • Bottle recycling project to raise fun
  • Collecting spare change (simple and powerful)

In addition:

  • Facilitate a letter writing campaign to your local newspaper or local congressmen, letting them know your concerns and solutions for land mines.
  • Write argument essays to ban land mines or expository / informational essays on the resistance to ban land mines.
  • Write informational / solution pamphlets on land mines and publish them.
  • Create a series of posts on your school’s website about land mines and solutions.
  • Create a video for You Tube or your school’s website about land mines and solutions.

The ten countries with the most land mines: 

  • Somalia-1 million
  • Mozambique-3 million
  • Bosnia-Herzegovina- 3 million
  • Kuwait-5 million
  • Cambodia-8-10 million
  • Iraq-10 million
  • Afghanistan-10 million
  • Angola-10-20 million
  • Iran-16 million
  • Egypt-23 million (many left over from WWII)

Even with on-going efforts, the U.N. and U.N.I.C.E.F. estimate that it will take 1,100 years to remove the land mines.

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About Teaching it Forward

We are high school language arts teachers in Oregon.
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