Sample Case Studies

Case Study #1

Sophia A. McClennen

Cultural Connections for Younger Students: A Party for a Japanese Refugee

On Friday, March 11, 2011 an earthquake hit Japan and caused a series of Tsunami waves. It was the largest earthquake in the history of Japan and it caused a lot of damage.  Homes were lost, people were hurt, and many had to find other places to stay since the places where they lived were no longer safe. Some Japanese families even had to move to other countries, at least temporarily.  Your teacher has just told you that a little girl from Japan will be coming soon to join your class at your school.  Her name is Bachiko, which means “happy child” in Japanese.  She is moving to State College with her parents and younger brother.

Your teacher tells you that the first day she will be in class will be May 5. In Japan May 5 is children’s day and the whole country celebrates children and their mothers. But for Bachiko May 5 is even more special since it is also her birthday. Since she will be here the class thinks that you should all plan a celebration for her. She won’t know anyone here yet.  She won’t have any friends yet. And, even though she speaks some English, she is more comfortable speaking Japanese.  You want to help her celebrate Children’s Day and her birthday and you also want to help her feel welcome since she will probably be missing her home very much. You want to make sure that the party includes some of the sorts of things that kids do in Japan. How can you plan the party? How can you help her celebrate her special day?

Global Knowledge/Global Empathy:

Asking the right questions:

Begin by asking questions that help your students connect with Bachiko’s story. Ask them to think of holidays they celebrate that they would miss if they had to go to a different country during that time of year.

Ask them to think of how they would feel if they had to be far from home for their birthday. What sorts of things would they miss? What sorts of things would they be able to do in a new place?

Adjusting the conversation based on the maturity of the class, talk about the challenges to Bachiko of having to move to a new place. Ask them about what they think of moving and what sorts of challenges moving brings—compare moving to another place in the country where you currently live to moving to a new country.

Talk about natural disasters. Ask them if there are times when they feel scared of them and discuss ways for them to reduce their fears. Talk about how they happen all over the globe. Make sure not to let them think that they only happen in places like Japan.

Gathering information:

Brainstorm with the class the sort of information they need in order to plan the party (solve the problem). Create a list of things that the class needs to learn to be able to do this.

Create a list of things that the kids need to learn about Japanese culture.  Ask the kids to think of any Japanese culture that they already know of (sushi, animation, pokemon, origami, etc.). Ask them to consider whether their experience of these cultural items might be different from how Bachiko and her friends experience them.

Depending on the class—consider teaching more about earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural disasters. Use this as a chance to balance learning about sciences with learning compassion for those that are affected by these events. Consider talking about Katrina or other US natural disasters (tornadoes) so that they don’t think these things only happen to others.

Imagining a way to address the problem:

Once you have begun to gather materials and information that can help the class imagine the party that they would like to throw, have them begin to describe what they want to do for the party. Do they need to make origami, kites, etc? What foods?   Music? What other activities? Help them imagine all of these things.

Then ask them to imagine the party and think of how they would like to tell a story about it. Asking them to be the storytellers of this will help encourage their imagination and empathy. (While possibly throwing the party would be a fun idea—it might not be the best learning activity and could be difficult to do).  Do they want to write a story about Bachiko and the party? Do they want to create a cartoon/animated version? Do they want to make a series of pictures? Consider whether you want them to work in groups or individually or in some combination. Group work is generally helpful for these types of projects. Maybe you make a few groups and let each one decide between a story, pictures, an origami play, etc… There are lots of options.

When the students have their projects complete have them present them to the class. Then have the whole class talk about the strengths and weaknesses of their projects. What do they think Bachiko would have liked most? What might have been hard for her? What parts were fun for them to plan? What parts were hard? The idea here is to make it clear that they have done good work, that they imagined a way to help someone else, but that it would not be possible to “fix” the situation. Bachiko would surely be a bit sad—but their party would also surely really help. And the more the party made her feel welcome, the more of a success it would be.

Next ask the class to engage in some sort of fundraising or other project to help the kids in Japan. Now, when they do this, they will feel much more connected to the communities they are trying to help.

Assessment:

There should always be some assessment with these projects.  It is possible to determine how well students gathered information, whether they asked good questions, and whether they could appreciate the limits to their work as well as its strengths.

Strengths:

Asks students to imagine a direct connection with a young Japanese earthquake victim—which creates a greater link.  Makes the crisis in Japan more real.

Asks them to imagine themselves in a similar situation—this will deter othering (the idea that this situation would only happen to others).

Gives them an opportunity to learn more about Japan through their own interest in solving a problem.

Risks:

Risks making them feel sorry for Bachiko in a way that might make her seem helpless. You can teach in ways that confront this tendency.

Risks developing a negative stereotype of Japan—since it could seem like a country that suffers disasters and needs our help. You can teach in ways that confront this tendency by not allowing them to describe Japan in negative terms.

Adaptations:

This case study could be adjusted to describe a child from almost any other nation that had to suddenly move to your school district. The possibilities are limitless.

Web resources:

Case Study #2

Sophia A. McClennen

Environmental Connections for Middle School Age Students: Global Sustainability and the Brazilian Amazon

Your name is Jorge, you are 13, and you are from Brazil. You live in the Amazon in a community of Seringueiros—Seringueiro is the Portuguese word for “rubber tapper.” Rubber tapping has been a traditional way of life for many people living in the Amazon forest since the start of the century.  A cut is made in the side of a rubber tree then the rubber is harvested. Later the tree heals and the rubber tapper sells the rubber to buy things they need. Life as a seringueiro is not easy. It is difficult to make money selling the rubber and many in these communities struggle to make a good life. Lately, though, it has gotten worse.

Jorge’s family and his community have just learned that a logging company plans to cut down the trees that they use to get rubber. Jorge’s parents are tired of fighting the logging company and they are thinking of moving to the city. But Jorge has heard stories that life in the city would be even harder for them and he doesn’t want to leave the forest. Instead, he wants to think of a way to protect the trees that his family needs for rubber. He wants to work to find a way to allow his community to continue living in harmony with nature. He thinks that he will hate living in the city and he wants to continue living in the ways that his community has for decades.

Jorge realizes that saving the trees for rubber tappers probably won’t convince the Brazilian government to protect them.  Native Americans throughout the hemisphere have seen their lands taken away and their way of life threatened for centuries—and very few people have come to their defense. But he thinks that maybe he can get attention to saving his community’s trees if he reminds the public of the importance of the plant life in the Amazon. He also thinks that he has a greater chance of getting attention to his community’s problem if he links with other kids his age from other parts of the world.

He thinks that if they work together they can make a difference. He thinks that if kids from various places draw attention to this problem, and if he gets help from environmentalists, he can convince the Brazilian government to protect the lands.

The Amazon rainforest is one of the world's greatest natural resources. Its many plants recycle carbon dioxide into oxygen, and some call it “Lungs of our Planet" since 20% of earth oxygen is produced by the Amazon rainforest. Even though environmentalists and government policies forced the world to give more attention to the rain forest, deforestation continues to be a major problem. Predications show that if nothing is done to stop the destruction of rainforest that half our remaining rain forests will be gone by the year 2025 and by 2060 there will be no rain forests remaining.

Not only does the Amazon provide oxygen, it is the home to a great variety of plant life that holds the potential to help solve many medical problems. Protecting this biodiversity is also of great importance. The plants in the Amazon could help us discover the next cure for cancer or for other diseases. The oxygen produced in the Amazon helps people all over the world to breathe.

Put yourself in the place of Jorge and imagine how he might solve this problem. How can he get help protecting the trees his family needs? Should he start an environmental activism campaign? How could

he do that? He will need to connect with others outside his community. Could you imagine ways that your own school might help him?  Design a strategy to help Jorge protect the rainforest.

Global Knowledge/Global Empathy:

Asking the right questions:

Begin by asking questions that help your students connect with Jorge’s story. Ask them to think of what they would do if a company was taking over the lands they lived on.

Ask them to think about the value of protecting traditional ways of life. Does their family have traditions that sometimes seem threatened based on the way that society has changed? And how are their experiences related to those of Jorge, whose community has a very traditional way of living? Does Jorge have a right to have that way of life protected? Do we have an obligation to help protect it?

Ask them to think about how hard it will be for Jorge to get attention to his cause. What are the challenges he faces? How can Jorge connect his cause to the lives of people living outside the rain forest? The rainforest is important to everyone’s heath—but few people know that or care. How can that change?

Talk about environmental issues. Ask them about what they do to help conserve the planet’s resources. Ask them to think about how environmental issues link people across the globe.   Ask them to think about the sorts of communities that tend to be most threatened by things like deforestation.  Are their problems exacerbated by having a less publicly recognized voice? Also ask them to think about how hard it is to get people to change the way that they live—even when they know that some of their habits are bad for the planet.

Talk about sustainability. Jorge’s community as a sustainable connection to the land. It does not take in a way that causes damage or limits regeneration. What are some ways that our students can live a sustainable life? How can we learn from communities like Jorge’s? What gets lost if those communities cease to exist?

Gathering information:

Brainstorm with the class the sort of information they need in order to help Jorge. They need to learn about rubber tapping, the Amazon, deforestation, environmental activism, sustainability. Create a list of things that the class needs to learn to be able to do this.

Create a list of things that the kids need to learn about Brazilian Native American culture.  Ask them to think of things that they know about Native Americans in the United States and then ask them to think of way that these communities face similar challenges across the Americas.

Ask them to think about how the crisis in the Amazon links to environmental crises in the United States. Do they know about the Marellus Shale story? How might that story be similar to that of Jorge’s?

Imagining a way to address the problem:

Once you have begun to gather materials and information that can help the class imagine  Jorge’s situation, have them begin to describe a plan for Jorge.  How can Jorge gain support? He can’t do it alone—so who would be good to help him?  What sorts of information does he need to present to get supporters for this? How can he best connect with people outside of his community? Help them imagine all of these things.

Next have them implement a campaign to save the rainforest where Jorge lives. Consider whether you want them to work in groups or individually or in some combination. Group work is generally helpful for these types of projects. Do they want to do posters, hold events, make a movie, write a book, get articles in newspapers, host a website, etc….? How can they best get attention for the cause? There are lots of options.

When the students have their project concepts complete have them present them to the class. They do not need to actually make the posters, websites, etc…they just need to describe them and create an example. Then have the whole class talk about the strengths and weaknesses of their projects. What parts of Jorge’s action plan were fun for them to work on? What parts were hard? The idea here is to make it clear that they have done good work, that they imagined          a way to help someone else, but that it would not be possible to “fix” the situation.

The class should then discuss the merits of each of the ideas that the teams came up with –and they could follow through on creating some resources that exemplified some of the approaches the class thought worked best.

Next ask the class to engage in some sort of project to raise awareness for an environmental issue—especially one linked to protecting forests. Ask them to consider a project to advance sustainable living.

Assessment:

There should always be some assessment with these projects.  It is possible to determine how well students gathered information, whether they asked good questions, and whether they could appreciate the limits to their work as well as its strengths.

Strengths:

Asks students to imagine a direct connection with a Brazilian Native American—which creates a greater link.   Makes the social and environmental crisis more real.

Asks them to imagine themselves in a similar situation—this will deter othering.

Gives them an opportunity to learn more about the Amazon and Brazilians through their own interest in solving a problem.

Risks:

Risks making them feel sorry for Jorge in a way that might make him seem helpless. You can teach in ways that confront this tendency.

Risks developing a negative stereotype of Brazil—since it could seem like the Brazilian government doesn’t care about the Amazon or the rubber tappers. You can teach in ways that confront this tendency by not allowing them to describe Brazil in negative terms and by reminding them of how this problem has global examples.

Adaptations:

This case study could be adjusted to describe an environmental conflict from another region. The possibilities are limitless.

Web resources:

Case Study #3

Sophia A. McClennen

The Impact of War on Children for High School Age Students: Landmines in Angola

Mia is 16 years old and she is from Angola. Last week her brother, Nelson, was playing soccer with friends when he chased after the ball and went on lands that they are warned never to step on. He was too busy chasing the ball to pay attention to the rule. As he crossed over into the dangerous territory he heard a click, then an explosion. He had stepped on a land mine. He was rushed to a hospital where Mia and her family went to see him.  Once they arrived they learned that Nelson had lost both legs in the explosion. Nelson is now one of the more than 100,000 Angolans who have lost a limb to landmines.

Angola suffered a civil war that ended in 1994, but, even though the war ended that year, the effects of it are still in place. There are estimates of between 10 and 20 landmines in Angola which is equal to approximately 1-2 landmines per inhabitant. As mentioned, over 100,000 Angolans have lost a limb due to a landmine and 120 Angolans die from a landmine explosion every month. But the negative effects of landmines on the population go beyond injuries: the threat of landmines restricts the ability of people to move about their country, to farm, to find clean water, to go to school, and –as in Nelson’s case—to play games like soccer. Women and children are most threatened by landmines and children represent 49% of the landmine injuries in Angola. During the Soviet war in Afghanistan during the 1980s the Soviets used landmines that looked to children like toys. Many were killed trying to pick them up. Even though the UN passed a moratorium on landmines in 1993, there is still no international consensus on banning the use of landmines. Currently there are 20 mines laid for each one removed.

Landmines only cost about $3 to make, but they cost about $1,000 each to remove. Mia has watched her community suffer life with landmines for too long. She wants to work to change this problem, but she realizes that the cost of removing landmines is very high. She knows that anti-landmine groups help to de-mine areas, but she doesn’t want to wait for help from others, she thinks her community needs to learn more about how to de-mine. She has another problem, too, she has learned that landmines continue to be used and she wants to work to stop the use of landmines in other countries. There are over 110 million landmines (and millions of other explosive devices) in 68 nations today. She wants to work to stop the future placement of more mines.

Put yourself in the place of Mia and imagine how she might solve this problem. How can she get help de-mining her community? Should she attempt to get de-miners to her area or she should work to see if some of the members of her community could learn de-mining techniques?  How could she do that? She also wants to raise awareness about landmines globally so that this practice can stop. Can you imagine a project with your school that could help her in that goal? Design a strategy to help Mia stop landmine damage.

Global Knowledge/Global Empathy:

Asking the right questions:

Begin by asking questions that help students connect with Mia’s story. Ask them to think of what they would do if a sibling or cousin or friend was hurt in this way.

Ask them to think about the impact of war on children. The case of landmines is a clear example of how current military techniques often target civilian populations and they do so through devices that can be left and that do not require military personnel to maintain. How has that changed the nature of war?  Should there be a ban on landmines? What would be some good ways to advance this cause?  It might be useful to review the Geneva Conventions with students since they are war guidelines that create protections for civilians.

A further issue is the way that the landmines cause Mia’s community to depend on others. De- mining is complex work and it takes a lot of training. Most of the time de-mining crews will come to a community, work, then leave. What are the challenges to changing that process and giving more local communities these skills and the equipment needed to perform them safely? Similarly some believe that the 12 nations that participated in Angola’s Civil War by providing the mines should also be responsible for getting rid of them. Who should get rid of the mines? What are some ways that the community can be an active part of this process?

Ask students to think about how hard it will be for Mia to get attention to her cause. What are the challenges she faces? How can Mia connect her cause to the lives of people living outside of Angola or Africa? What would it take to get people living in the United States to care about Mia’s situation? The US is home to more than 15 landmine producers. Should efforts be made to shut down their operations?

Ask them to think about the long term effects of war on communities.  A number of nations in the world have been engaged in long term conflicts, with children that have lived their whole lives during military conflict. How does that influence the lives of children?  How does that affect a community’s ability to prosper? What will happen to kids like Nelson as they grow up?

Gathering information:

Brainstorm with the class the sort of information they need in order to help Mia. They need to learn about landmines, the politics of de-mining, the current efforts to ban landmines, and the human rights of children in a time of war. Create a list of things that the class needs to learn to be able to do this.

Create a list of things that the students need to learn about Angolan society and history.  In order to appreciate Mia’s situation it is important that students empathize with her without seeing her as a helpless victim. What happened during the Civil War? Why did the United States and the Soviet Union get involved?  How was their involvement a result of Cold War dynamics? Teach students about the idea of proxy wars and ask them to think about the political implications such wars have on the nations where the wars are waged.

Ask them to think about how the landmine crisis is a geopolitical problem that is not just limited to Angola. Have the class learn about the use of landmines in other countries and ask them to think about how landmines play a role in contemporary military conflicts.

Imagining a way to address the problem:

Once you have begun to gather materials and information that can help the class imagine Mia’s situation, have them begin to describe a plan for Mia. How can Mia gain support?  How can Mia

help her community and get help? She can’t do it alone—so who would be good to help her? What sorts of information does she need to present to get supporters for her cause? How can she best connect with people outside of her community? Help them imagine all of these things.

Next have them implement a campaign to get resources to de-mine the area where Mia lives and/or to assist the international anti-landmine project. Consider whether you want them to work in groups or individually or in some combination. Group work is generally helpful for these types of projects. Do they want to do posters, hold events, make a movie, write a book, get articles in newspapers, host a website, etc….?  How can they best get attention for the cause?

There are lots of options.

When the students have their project concepts complete have them present them to the class. They do not need to actually make the posters, websites, etc…they just need to describe them, include examples, and possibly write up a report. The amount of actual materials they provide can be adjusted based on time and resources.

Then have the whole class talk about the strengths and weaknesses of their projects. What parts of Mia’s action plan were easier to solve? What parts were harder? The idea here is to make it clear that they have done good work, that they imagined a way to help someone else, but that it would not be possible to “fix” the situation. Nelson won’t get his legs back, but possibly this project could save another boy.

The class should then discuss the merits of each of the ideas that the teams came up with –and they could follow through on creating some resources that exemplified some of the approaches the class thought worked best.  Having open conversations with the class about the pros and cons of each project teaches students to appreciate that complex problems require complex solutions.

Next ask the class to engage in some sort of project to raise awareness of the damages caused by landmines. Ask them to consider a project to advance efforts to ban landmines and/or to support de-mining in Angola.

Assessment:

There should always be some assessment with these projects.  It is possible to determine how well students gathered information, whether they asked good questions, and whether they could appreciate the limits to their work as well as its strengths.

Strengths:

Asks students to imagine a direct connection with an Angolan—which creates a greater link.  Makes the social and political crisis more real.

Asks them to imagine themselves in a similar situation—this will deter othering.

Gives them an opportunity to learn more about landmines, the effects of war on children, and Angola through their own interest in solving a problem.

Teaches them to appreciate the complexity of these types of problems and the fact that they do not have easy solutions. Teaches them that it is important to work to solve problems even when these can’t be easily fixed.

Risks:

Risks making them feel sorry for Mia and Nelson in a way that might make them seem helpless. You can teach in ways that confront this tendency.

Risks developing a negative stereotype of Angola—since the history of the prolonged Civil War could make it seem like Angola is not capable of peaceful rule. You can teach in ways that confront this tendency by not allowing them to describe Angola in negative terms and by reminding them of how the Civil War was not simply fought by Angolans: it was indicative of Cold War struggles and the legacy of Angola’s history as a colony of Portugal.

Adaptations:

This case study could be adjusted to describe a military conflict from another region—the key is to focus on the effects to children of war, since that link is likely to draw more empathy. There are many possibilities.

Web resources:

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