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Children in War and Strife: Case Studies
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:  Ongoing armed conflicts draw children in as victims, witnesses and even perpetrators every day. These conflicts have arisen from unique and complicated circumstances, but the effects upon the children are universal. This lesson asks students to research the place of children within a current world conflict. It draws heavily upon information provided by human rights watchdog groups such as Amnesty International or the Human Rights Watch to facilitate the production of museum-style "displays" on each of the conflicts explored.

TIME REQUIRED:  Six (6) 40-Minute Class Sessions

SUGGESTED GRADE LEVELS: Grade 9-12 Social Studies

INTERDISCIPLINARY APPLICATIONS: Social Studies, Visual Arts, English: Memoirs, paintings, poems and other forms of visual art and literature are encouraged components of student displays. Mathematics: Optional assessment activities involve the interpretation and analysis of statistics.

NEW JERSEY CORE CONTENT STANDARDS:  This lesson addresses the following NJ Core Content Curriculum Standards in Social Studies: 6.1.11, 12, 13, 14; 6.2.9, 11; 6.3.9, 12, 14; 6.4.13; 6.5.14; 6.8.16


  1. Students will identify and describe several specific situations in which children are or have been victimized by war and political strife.
  2. Students will use electronic and print media to research given topics within a current or recent world conflict.
  3. Students will take on roles within a small group to develop a display and visual handout on a topic.

The teacher may use the Impact of War Upon Children lesson as a background to this activity. Otherwise, the teacher may begin the first session 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 short 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 describe the guidelines for the production of a museum-style display on the effects of a current world conflict on children. Guidelines should include the following points:

  1. The display should be a poster or free-standing tri-fold board.
  2. The display should represent a balance of visual and textual information.
  3. The display should be neatly and aesthetically produced.
  4. A one-page handout or brochure should accompany the display to summarize and organize the information.

The teacher will randomly assign students to groups of three members. The research groups will each choose a world conflict and spend the remainder of the first two sessions in the media center researching that conflict and beginning to organize their displays and handouts. Research should be focused upon the causes of the conflict and the ways in which the conflict has affected children. The group should look for visuals of the conflict, especially photographs of children's involvement in the conflict or art by children victimized by the conflict. Each group should also try to find eyewitness testimonials from or about children in the conflict. Cooperative learning roles may be assigned based upon tasks (researcher, note taker, coordinator) or research domains (background and content, visuals, testimonials).

The research groups will spend the third session in class or in the media center (if possible) finalizing the production of their displays and handouts. The teacher should visit each group to answer questions, provide suggestions and help to distribute responsibilities among the group members.

All displays should be finished by the end of the third session. All handouts should be given to the teacher, who will make copies of each for each member of the class.

The teacher will direct the groups to erect their displays in a circle around the room. Each group should choose one member to act as a "guide" to their topic. The teacher will then direct the remaining two group members to act as "visitors" to each of the other displays in succession.

This phase of the activity should be controlled by the teacher (4-5 minutes per display, moving clockwise around the room). During each visit, guides will deliver handouts to the visitors, describe the conflict and its implications upon children, and give an overview of the visual and textual information on the display. Visitors should take notes on their handouts of any important information, ask questions, and give positive feedback on the display. The teacher may wish to direct groups to vary their roles between visitor and guide so as to allow each member of the class to visit other displays.

Once each group has visited each display, the research groups will reconvene to share information and handouts to insure that each group member has an understanding of each conflict and copies of every handout.

The teacher will begin to debrief the activity by asking each student to list three similarities between the conflicts. Students will then pair quickly with any other member of the class to expand their lists to six similarities.

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

  1. What are the similarities that might be used to describe a universal experience?
  2. What was the most extreme example of the oppression of children uncovered by the displays?
  3. Describe why children in such a situation are said to be "deprived of a childhood."
  4. Should the US and international organizations intervene in internal conflicts, given the plight of children?
  5. What can individual citizens of countries in peace do to help the child victims of war in other areas of the world?
  6. What are the risks involved in taking the actions described by 4 and 5?

MATERIALS:  Students will need two to three days of access to the media center.  The teacher or students will need to provide poster or tri-fold display boards, glue, scissors, marker/crayons and any other materials necessary for the production of displays. Students should have access to word processing or desktop publishing software for the production of display elements and handouts. They should also have access to the Internet for source material and content.



  • Volavkova, Hannah, ed., and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. (1993). ... I Never Saw A Butterfly: Children's Drawings and Poems From Terezin Concentration Camp, 1942-1944. New York: Schocken Books.


Students should be given individual grades that combine scores from appropriate rubrics on individual participation and on group fulfillment of teacher-determined display guidelines. Additional assessment activities might include:

  1. Students involved in model UN or similar activities may develop resolutions to address these topics, or critique existing resolutions archived on the United Nations website.
  2. Students may develop Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, essays or web pages to discuss and evaluate efforts of international and non-governmental organizations to address the plight of children in war.
  3. Students may write letters, create scrapbooks or write diary/journal entries from the point of view of a child witness or child victim of war.
  4. Students proficient in software such as Microsoft Excel or ESRI ArcView GIS may produce handouts or packets describing statistics related to current or historical examples of children victimized by war.
  5. 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:
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