Printer Friendly Version
The Impact of War Upon Children
Jeff Moore, Colts Neck (NJ) High School


  1. What political factors influence the roles and rights of children?
  2. How are children affected by war?

OVERVIEW:Children are affected by war in many ways. Some are impressed into the military, while others become refugees or even targets. While the long-term psychological effects of exposure to war and political strife are uncertain, the immediate physical and emotional dangers cannot be denied. This lesson draws upon a UNICEF report to teach students about the various ways in which children are victimized by war. Students work together to bring individual topical studies of the 94-page report into a comprehensive understanding of the impacts of war upon children.

TIME REQUIRED: Three (3) 40- Minute class sessions

SUGGESTED GRADE LEVELS: Grade 11-12 Social Studies
The lesson may be modified for younger students by substituting abstracts given on the report's cover page for the full UNICEF report and by making slight modifications to the topic list and questions asked.

INTERDISCIPLINARY APPLICATIONS: ENGLISH: This lesson may be used as background to any piece of literature with a similar theme. Examples include Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo, Night, Across Five Aprils, My Brother Sam Is Dead, and The Diary of Anne Frank.  ART: The resources cited below include visual art produced by children victimized by war and political strife. This lesson may serve as a backdrop for interpreting such works.  SCIENCE: Issues in health, from epidemiological to nutrition, are important topics addressed by the UNICEF report.

NEW JERSEY CORE CONTENT STANDARDS: This lesson addresses the following NJ Core Content Curriculum Standards in Social Studies: 6.1.11, 12, 13, 14; 6.3.9, 14; 6.8.16


  1. Students will describe several categories of effects of war and political strife upon children.
  2. Students will identify and describe several specific current events in which children are or have been victimized by war and political strife.
  3. Students will comprehend and summarize information on a given topic from a primary source.
  4. Students will take on roles within a small group to develop and implement a plan to teach a topic.
  5. Students will propose and evaluate solutions to various problems related to the plight of children in war and political strife.

The teacher will open the lesson by asking the students to brainstorm ways in which war violates a child's rights. Student responses should be written on the board to facilitate discussion. The teacher may conclude the activity by discussing the rights guaranteed to children under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the implications of war upon each of those rights.

The teacher will then direct students to UNICEF's "Impact of Armed Conflict on Children" report. The teacher will randomly assign each student one of the following topics, making sure to have each topic represented as equally as possible:

a. Children As Soldiers
b. Children as Refugees and Displaced Persons
c. Children as Victims of Sexual Exploitation
d. Children as Victims of Unexploded Ordnance (Land mines, etc.)
e. Children's Health in War and Political Strife
f. Children's Nutrition in War and Political Strife

The teacher will instruct students to scan the report for their individual topics and then produce a one-page briefing or fact sheet that answers each of the following questions as bulleted points or short paragraphs:

  1. Describe some specific effects associated with your topic. Include information on any specific regional examples.
  2. Why are children vulnerable to the effects associated with your topic?
  3. What particular groups of children are vulnerable to those effects?

Students should work individually between Sessions One and Two to complete this task.

Students will meet in "expert groups" organized by topic (one group per topic). They will share their information and make changes necessary to their own briefings/fact sheets toward the production of a consensus document.

The teacher will assign each student to a "learning group" made up of representatives from each expert group. Students in learning groups will teach their topics and take notes to develop a comprehensive summary. The teacher should visit each group to answer questions, clarify terminology, etc.

The teacher will conclude the activity by leading a class discussion/debriefing that addresses the following questions:

  1. What types of pressures/dangers are unique to children in situations of war or political strife?
  2. Why do children comprise the most vulnerable population during war or political strife?
  3. What choices, if any, do children have in situations of war or political strife?
  4. What can international organizations like UNICEF do to improve conditions for children?
  5. What risks are involved in implementing those solutions?
  6. What can individual citizens in countries unaffected by war and political strife do to aid the victims?

MATERIALS:  Students require access to the Internet.



The teacher may score students individually on participation in group and class discussions from an appropriate rubric. Additional assessments may include:

  1. Students may return to the report to write a short critique of one or more of the solutions proposed.
  2. Students may develop a multimedia presentation (PowerPoint, web page, etc.) on the issues raised by their topics.
  3. Students may write a letter, poem or journal entry from the point of view of a child caught in war or political strife.
  4. Teachers of younger students may wish to examine a Land Mine Simulation from the University of Minnesota.

To learn more about the influence of Children's Rights on our global society, click on the links below:
Relevance | Lesson Plans | Resources | Results

Comments or questions about GC2000? E-mail Us.