Chalk/writing board, metal beads, empty tin can, journal.
One classroom period - 50 min.
Students will explore actual homicide rates to more fully grasp the seriousness of small arms. They will also experience an activity meant to emphasize the sheer number of deaths related to small arms.
1. The educator should open this lesson by explaining that disarmament researchers study who is most at risk from small arms. Present the students with the following table taken from the Small Arms Survey (link here) and give students all of the information in the table except for the name of the country. This table should be written on the chalkboard too. Make sure the country part of the matrix is left blank. Instead, give students a scrambled selection of countries to choose from. Out of 15 countries they have to pick the six countries that correspond to the table. They have to choose from Russia, South Africa, China, Argentina, United States, Brazil, Jamaica, Sierra Leone, Philippines, Canada, Cambodia, Tanzania, Mexico, Turkey, and Vietnam). Ask students to make educated guesses on what numbers and rates correspond to each county. Again, tell students they can only use six countries from the list. After a few minutes, ask the students to go the chalkboard and write their answers in the country box. Discuss. The educator should then erase any wrong answers and give the class the proper answers. Ask students if they were surprised by any of the statistics and if so, which ones and why.
2. Once students have seen the statistics on the alarming rates of deaths by firearms in Brazil as compared to other countries, ask them to sit in a circle for the next activity. This next activity is meant to emphasize the humanitarian impact of weapons by making audible the thousands of people who have lost their lives to guns. Tell students you are going to drop small metal beads into a tin can, with each bead representing 25 people that died that year in Brazil. Ask them to envision that each time they hear a bead hitting the bottom of the can, 25 people have died. Ask students to close their eyes for this activity. Drop one bead in, then another, and then a few more. Keep dropping the beads slowly until all are gone. The crescendo of beans should pour out until 1640 beads fill the can (the total amount representing 41,000). The idea here is to have the students reflect on the sheer amount of deaths related to small arms.
3. After dropping all of the beads, ask students to open their eyes. In order to process how they are feeling about the symbolism of the activity, go around the circle and have everyone say a word association about what they are feeling or thinking. Continue a second time around if more group processing is needed. With the students still in a collective group, ask them to reflect on the following question. Given the activities today and considering the statistics, do you think small arms could be considered weapons of mass destruction? Discuss. After a class discussion, ask the students to write any additional thoughts on this question in their journal for an assignment.