There are many ways to engage your students. There are also many ways to evoke emotion and create engagement. When it comes to nuclear weapons, we know that the more a person knows about the consequences of these weapons, the more emotions are generated and it is easier to get a picture of and create an interest in the way the world and the political situation is structured.
Give a speech/ have a debate
This exercise is for the student to practise giving a speech in front of an audience. It is about arguing for or against nuclear weapons with well-founded arguments. What are the advantages/disadvantages of nuclear weapons, are there any safety guarantees or health arguments and so on. It is about the student putting themself in different positions arguing for or against nuclear weapons.
Suggested positions for the student to take:
- NATO officer
- President of a nuclear weapon state
- Environmental activist
- Peace activist
- UN employee
Prepare a presentation
Preparing a presentation is always informative and educational. When it comes to nuclear weapons, there are several different perspectives and elements that the student can focus on. Issues to be raised can be about factual and concrete questions or it can be about talking about nuclear weapons from a specific perspective, such as gender or religion.
Relevant subjects could be geography, history and social studies where the student learns about which countries have nuclear weapons, which countries have nuclear weapons deployed in their territory but are not considered nuclear weapons states, if any country had plans to acquire nuclear weapons/had nuclear weapons but abandoned the plans, which places on earth are nuclear-free zones, which countries are in favour of a ban on nuclear weapons.
In history, students can look to the past and present. What happened in August 1945 and what does it look like today?
In social studies, for example, it can be about security policy, i.e. why do some countries have nuclear weapons, what creates security and security guarantees, what is the difference between non-proliferation and total disarmament.
Applying a different perspective to these factual questions allows the student to go deeper in their knowledge and work in a way that encourages critical thinking.
Write a letter
When we talk about nuclear weapons, we usually talk about the technical parts of nuclear weapons. We talk about the weapon carriers – how far they can go, the type of missile or submarine, the construction – we talk about explosive power, about which countries have nuclear weapons and about the atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War. What we often forget to talk about are the people who build these weapons, who look after these weapons and those who make it possible for these weapons to exist – those who invest.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN, and the Dutch organisation Pax jointly produce a report each year examining who invests in nuclear weapons. This includes banks, companies and funds. Read more at Don’t Bank on the Bomb and ICAN’s website.
Ask students to find out what the policies of the countries banks and funds are when it comes to nuclear weapons. If they are not satisfied with the results, they can write a letter to the banks or funds with a well-founded argument on the matter. It is then a matter of both finding information and contact details, and at the same time making a difference and influencing society.