Learning from our past: a monument dedicated to a peaceful future without nuclear weapons

Location:
Children’s Peace Monument – Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan

Content:
The resource is an actual location where peace education can be applied and has been applied around the world in past years. Within the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park stands a statue of a young girl holding a crane. The girl is Sadako Sasaki who was only two-years-old when Hiroshima was hit by the atomic bomb in 1945. She died at the age of twelve after she developed leukemia, which was due to the radiation she was exposed to from the bombing as a toddler. Sadako had been folding paper cranes while she was in the hospital after being diagnosed in the hopes that folding 1,000. She believed she would be cured according to an old Japanese legend. Sadako and the cranes thus became a symbol of peace and a world without nuclear weapons. I found this resource through my interest in Sadako Sasaki as I had read a book about her life. Through more research, I found out that there is an actual commemorative statue for her in Hiroshima, Japan.

Context:
I think this field trip location would be an excellent source of information and inspiration for people of all ages. It is appropriate for children as it celebrates the life and ambitions of a young victim of war. For adults, it could be a humbling example of the lasting and irreparable effects of nuclear warfare. The most important lesson that could be learned is the importance of peace and finding a peaceful resolution before all else. Inscribed on the statue is: “This is our cry, this is our prayer: for building peace in the world,” which I believe is a poignant message of the lesson to be learned.

Implementation/Pedagogies:

For educators outside of Japan, teaching at this location could be difficult. It would require time, planning, and money. If, however, it can be arranged it is an invaluable and wonderful example of the importance of peace and the consequences of a world without it. Not only the statue but also the entire Peace Park holds the remains of the damage caused by the bombings. This trip could be a formal or informal way of learning. Classroom style instructions and teachings would be required to help the students understand the history of the Peace Park. That might be mistaken for the banking method of learning that Paulo Friere refers to. However, it would involve active learning that includes the student’s ideas that add on to the history the teacher provides the students about Hiroshima and the story of Sadako Sasaki itself. Students always learn more in an active environment where they are free to express themselves and learn about a subject in different ways so they are fully able to understand the importance of the lesson without the teacher forcing it upon them.

However, if a trip to the location is not possible, it is entirely possible to teach from the classroom in a positive and productive way that doesn’t inhibit the student’s learning experience. Sadako Sasaki’s story stands as one example of what the people of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the entirety of Japan had to face.

Example of a lesson that could take place of the trip:
Lesson 1: Short background on the war and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (includes death toll and after effects)
Lesson 2: Story of Sadako Sasaki and how she was affected by the war (illness and eventual death)
Lesson 3: Introduce lessons the teacher thinks should be learned
Lesson 4: Ask students if and how the bombings could have been avoided and what lessons they believe are important
Lesson 5: Ask students what pedagogies and ideals would have been beneficial for the leaders and decision makers behind the bombings to have.

Goals:
I hope that through learning about this location and the story of Sadako Sasaki, students will develop more tolerant and patient attitudes. The atrocities that took place in Japan were partly due to the desire of United States to win the war and end it no matter the cost. This type of attitude will not work when we’re trying to promote a more peaceful world. Even today, there is talk of nuclear war and the use of nuclear weapons. During these volatile times, we need the individuals making the decisions to be patient, knowledgeable, and humane. If students can draw inspiration from the monument, hopefully one day they can be the leaders we need.

Audience:

High school students in history or government classes in Fairfax County could be a great audience for this type of activity. Older students might have a higher chance of being able to go to the actual site and also implement their own ways of thinking/activities to do. If this isn’t possible then even elementary and middle school students would benefit from the classroom exercise option. Community individuals from countries like Iran, North Korea (may be a bit unrealistic), Russia, the U.K., and many other nations could also benefit from learning the deadly impact nuclear warfare can have on people. This activity in general doesn’t have a specific age group because everyone can learn something from it.

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