“Teaching Hiroshima and Nagasaki”, a Workshop on Nuclear Disarmament Held at The United Nations for New York City High School Teachers

“Teaching Hiroshima and Nagasaki” a workshop on nuclear disarmament for New York City high school teachers was held on 4 November 2014 at United Nations Headquarters. This is the third consecutive year such a workshop was held on Election Day when teachers at New York City Public Schools are given a day to participate in continuing education activities. Since 2012, Hibakusha Stories in collaboration with Peace Boat and the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) organized a workshop on nuclear disarmament at United Nations Headquarters.
John Ennis, Chief of the Information and Outreach Branch of the Office for Disarmament Affairs

 

Teachers specializing in a diverse range of issues including, social studies, global studies, government, science, history and literature from nineteen New York City high schools participated in the workshop. The day began at the United Nations with a guided tour of the disarmament section of the visitor tour route. A number of teachers noted how emotionally powerful it was to see the statue of Saint Agnes from Urakami Cathedral which survived the nuclear bombing which devastated the city of Nagasaki in August 1945.

Immediately following the tour, the workshop commenced with the briefing by UNODA on the history of nuclear disarmament and the role of the United Nations. The workshop continued in the afternoon, exploring pedagogical approaches including multidisciplinary and student-focused learning methods including the “BB demonstration”[1], as well as tapping into online curriculum resources.

Valere Mantels, Senior Political Affairs Officer of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Branch of the Office for Disarmament Affairs gives a briefing on nuclear weapons

Teachers also heard testimonies by Ms. Mitchie Takeuchi and Ms. Miyako Taguchi, second and third generation atomic bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Their personal stories about the unspeakable suffering endured by their parents and grandparents who lived in Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the time of the nuclear bombings were a solemn reminder to the participants of the workshop on the humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons. Ms. Takeuchi ended her story by citing a haiku by her grandfather one year after the bombing, “Summer grasses growing, Standing in the ruins, Impossible to leave (Hiroshima)” encouraging the teachers to help their students make positive contributions to life, making a difference despite any suffering.

In addition, the teachers had an opportunity to have an interactive session among themselves by using open sentences such as “When I think about nuclear weapons in the world today…”, “What and how I want to teach my students about nuclear weapons is…” and “Some of the things I really love about being alive today are…”. They also had an opportunity to hear about some of the successful disarmament education projects by Hibakusha Stories, Peace Boat and Mr. Nathan Snyder, an English Literature teacher at NYCI School.

The workshop was highly praised by the teachers who felt that they were better equipped to integrate nuclear disarmament in the curriculum of their classes whether it be a literature or a social studies or a science class.

 

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[1] The demonstration, using round metallic pellets (known as BBs), allows the blindfolded listeners to hear the sound of one small pellet dropping into a large tin can. The small ping of the one pellet represents all the firepower used during World War II including the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The sound of that small ping is then compared to the huge crashing sound of 2,225 pellets falling into the same tin which represents the potential impact from the magnitude of the world’s present-day nuclear arsenal. The effect is quite chilling on listeners and reminds them that the threat from nuclear weapons still exists.