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In the latest edition


Cultural property and conflict

Detail of an Assyrian relief from Nimrud showing horses and horsemen of the royal chariot 725 BC© InfoIs it really a war crime to destroy historic monuments? The question arises after video footage was broadcast of armed groups apparently attacking centuries-old statues in Iraq. Invite views and explanations.

In fact, all civilian property, which includes monuments, art galleries, museums and their contents, is protected under internationally-agreed laws of war.

Only military objects can be legally targeted in armed conflict. Attacking a statue is not permitted, just as attacking a civilian's home isn't.

There is also special protection for artefacts which are so significant that their loss would damage the cultural heritage of all humankind.

Ask young people to identify monuments, artworks and cultural heritage sites that they think should have special protection in the event of armed conflict. Can they argue for their choices?

[During this exercise, encourage young people to think about what constitutes cultural property, including: monuments of architecture or history, archaeological sites, works of art, books, manuscripts, scientific collections, and buildings whose purpose is to preserve and exhibit cultural property e.g. museums, libraries and archives.]

Think more broadly about how art and culture matter in conflict. When the basics of life, even survival, are under threat does music, art and literature become irrelevant, or more vital? Discuss the cellist who played music during the conflict in Sarajevo, or World War II concentration camp inmates who would listen to music, even if it meant they didn't get fed.

Understanding the laws of war. There can be exceptions to protecting cultural property during armed conflict. Cultural property may be used when there is no other way of obtaining the same military advantage. And an attack on cultural property may be lawful when the property has been turned into a military object and there is no other way of gaining the same military advantage. Access our Rules of War lesson plan to take your learning further. 

Escape the classroom. Explore Middle Eastern art and culture with a visit to the British Museum.


Coping with anger

A bully intimidates another person© InfoThree episodes of a popular TV programme, Top Gear, have been postponed after a reported fracas involving presenter Jeremy Clarkson.

Use the incident to help young people explore anger and ways to defuse potential conflicts.

Telling a person who is shouting and swearing that they are over-reacting and need to calm down is rarely a good idea. Why? What do young people think is likely to be the response? Discuss better options.

The first words you speak to an angry person are likely to be critical in either escalating or defusing a situation.

What might be the best approach to help calm someone who is angry? In small groups role-play potential approaches and discuss which might be most effective and why.

Expressions of anger and high emotion can increase stress levels all round. What are the main symptoms of such stress? Identifying them is important, as it is hard to be helpful in a tense situation unless you are calm yourself.

What strategies do young people have for reducing fast heartbeat, sweaty palms and rapid breathing? How can they reduce the chance of further inflaming a tense situation?

See our teacher briefing on defusing conflict.


Amphibious houses

Huts on the River Kwai Thailand © InfoCan houses float? Would it make sense to build them so they rise along with water levels in areas prone to flooding?

Ask young people if this is a serious way of preparing for, and reducing the negative impacts of a natural disaster, or just a fantasy.

Architects and developers in Thailand are currently experimenting with various designs. One $86,000 amphibious house in Ayutthaya, Thailand, sits on the ground on steel pontoons filled with tough polystyrene foam. It will rise up to three metres off the ground if the area floods, then return to its base.

Discuss the benefits. Is it more effective than other flood defences, such as using sandbags or evacuating homes? What practical problems would need to be solved? Think about securing objects and maintaining services such as gas, water and broadband.

If you were designing a ‘flood-proof’ home, what would it look like? As a group, share thoughts and agree on the best ideas.

Many people live in areas which are at risk of flooding in homes which haven’t been designed to withstand flood water. What could people whose homes are at risk of flooding do to prepare for a flood? Think about actions they might take both before and during a flood.

How might they keep themselves safe during a flood? How could they look out for other people living nearby?


Previous editions of newsthink


Snow jumping challenged

A street covered in snow© InfoStop this nonsense. Act responsibly. Stop jumping out of windows. Why did the mayor of Boston, USA, issue this advice to local residents?

The answer lies in record amounts of snow that have fallen on the city since January. Some people have been jumping out of upper storey windows into piles of banked-up snow and sharing videos of their jumps on social media.

Do young people think the mayor, Martin J. Walsh, is acting as a killjoy? Or does he have a serious point?

He told a press conference, "the last thing we want to do is respond to an emergency call where somebody jumped out of the window because they thought it was a funny thing to do.” How would emergency workers feel if they were distracted from helping vulnerable people affected by the blizzards? How might the injured person feel?

Explore perceptions of risk in unusual situations. What hidden hazards might lie beneath the snow? What injuries might occur from jumping from height?

Talk about peer pressure exerted through social media challenges. What advice would you give someone who doesn't want to jump but feels under pressure?


Racism in football

A man approaches the carriage door on the Paris Metro© InfoA man who was pushed and prevented from getting into a Paris metro carriage by football supporters didn't want to tell anyone about the incident. Invite young people to think about why this might be.

Encourage them to think about the feelings and emotions he might have experienced during and after the event? Then look at what he told the press (translation follows):

"Je suis rentré chez moi sans parler de cette histoire à personne, ni à ma femme ni à mes enfants... Et puis, que dire à mes enfants ? Que papa s'est fait bousculer dans le métro parce qu'il est noir ? Cela ne sert à rien."

[Translation]: I went home without telling my story to anyone, neither my wife nor my children... What could I tell my children? That dad was shoved around on the metro because he is black? That would be pointless.

Talk about dignity. What does ‘respect for human dignity’ mean to young people? What situations could compromise someone’s dignity? What actions could help restore someone’s dignity?

What message would you want to send to the Parisian man, Souleymane S? If you had been there, what might you have said to him after the train left? What do you think he would want to hear? How might that help?

Rio Ferdinand, former England defender, said: “I think a lot of people became a bit complacent with racism". What could you personally do to help dispel that complacency?


Where now with Ebola?

Children tell their village 'Ebola must go' in their own language using the microphone and speakers brought by the Red Cross for its sound-truck community engagement campaign 24 January 2015 Liberia© InfoThe Ebola epidemic dominated news headlines at the end of last year. What is happening now? Is the epidemic over? Invite young people to say what they know of the current state of the epidemic. What countries are affected? Are people still being quarantined? Are UK nurses still volunteering to travel to countries in West Africa to work in treatment centres?

List what young people would like to know more about, and identify good sources of possible answers. In small groups, young people should research the aspects of the epidemic that they are interested in, before coming back together to share their new knowledge with the group.

Can normal life begin again in communities where quarantines have been lifted? Ask young people to think about what the long term impact of this crisis might be. Many children have been orphaned, and villages may now face food shortages if the quarantine meant they were unable to attend to crops at the critical time of the year.

Discuss what individuals and communities affected by the virus might need right now? What long-term support might they need as they recover and start to rebuild their lives?

Can young people identify similarities and differences between an immediate emergency response and a long-term recovery plan?


Robots in disasters

An updated version of Boston Dynamics robot© InfoCan robots help in disasters? A prize of $2 million will be awarded this year to the team of developers demonstrating the best human-supervised robot technology for disaster response.

Start a conversation: who thinks robots will be effective in disaster relief operations that are too dangerous for humans? List scenarios in which robots might perform better than aid workers.

The competition, set up by the US defense department responsible for new technology in the military, was triggered by the meltdown of nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan in 2011 following a tsunami and earthquake.

Can the group correctly identify the key hazard to humans that the developers wanted to avoid? (Radiation exposure.)

How close do young people think developers are to creating a robot that can do human-like things? In reality, tasks such as climbing a ladder, running, or any fast reactions or tricky jobs such as opening a stuck window, are as yet difficult for machines.

Does that give young people greater respect for human skills? Talk about human-robot interaction. How would an injured person feel about being rescued by a robot?


Art and genocide

Memory Makers Project from Holocaust Memorial Day Trust© InfoDiscuss the thinking behind Holocaust Memorial Day, held on 27 January each year. ‘By remembering the holocaust, we reduce the chance of it happening again. By listening to the stories of survivors, we can gain in humanity and understanding’.

This year's Holocaust Memorial Day Trust project, the Memory Makers, uses creative art as a way of remembering. Why might art be a good way of keeping memories alive?

Can the group give examples of events they have learned more about through art? (An example might be the 2014 poppy installation at the Tower of London.)

Under the Memory Makers project, creative artists met and interviewed survivors of the genocide from across Europe.

The stories, of childhood and teenage fear and loss, have been portrayed through film, drawing, animation, collage or poetry. Which artistic form does the group think best captures childhood memories of the holocaust?

One interviewee survived nearly a year in Auschwitz because she played the cello in the camp orchestra. What questions would the group like to ask her? List them, then see if they are answered in the interview or in Stephen Fry's essay.


A&E emergencies

Emergency ambulance parked outside hospital Accident and Emergency department© InfoThis winter some hospitals have declared a major incident, indicating that they are unable to cope as normal. Talk about what happens when an Accident & Emergencies department experiences its own emergency. Who can it turn to?

They may call in additional staff and get support from other organisations. They also cut back on non-essential work, discharging patients and cancelling operations. List events that can create an emergency, such as a rail crash or an outbreak of illness.

Volunteers are sometimes called on, but usually need to be trained and linked to an accredited organisation. Why is this important? What problems can young people foresee in being helped in a hospital by well-meaning people with no experience or screening?

A&E doesn't mean "anything and everything", say the experts. What point are they making?  Some estimates suggest that up to 50 per cent of patients could be treated elsewhere. Can young people identify other options, including GPs, walk-in and out-of-hours services, first aid, and pharmacists?

When is it right to call 999 and when to call NHS 111? Test some scenarios and try to get agreement - perhaps using the choose better game.



The Script - car rescue

Glen Power Danny O'Donoghue and Mark Sheehan of The Script at an event in New York City© InfoYou are driving on a motorway and see a car spinning out of control in the fast lane. It hits the central barrier and spins, scattering broken glass and other debris. Eventually, it stops. What do you do?

Members of the band The Script gained praise for stopping their tour bus to help the driver when they witnessed exactly this.

Initially the band planned to talk to the driver in the car, keeping her talking and reassured until the ambulance arrived.

But then Mark Sheehan noticed there was smoke coming from the engine.

Danny O'Donoghue said, "Of course you're never going to move someone from an accident. But if there's smoke coming out of the engine you want to get them out as quick as possible."

Can the group explain his thinking? What might young people have done in this situation?

Encourage them to think about keeping themselves and others safe, giving first aid and calling for help.

Danny also told Manchester radio station Key103 listeners that he'd dialled 911. Does that US emergency number work in the UK? Ask the group to find out if it does – they’ll need to decide on a way of finding out if it works without calling the number.


Tsunami anniversary

Devastation in Phi Phi Island Thailand after the Tsunami in 2004© InfoTen years ago in late December 2004 a vast tidal wave known as a tsunami was triggered by an earthquake in the Indian Ocean.

Shocking scenes of devastation followed. Buildings and livelihoods were destroyed. Over 226,000 people died.

Discuss what young people know about the Boxing Day tsunami and how it dominated news headlines.

An emergency appeal in the UK raised £393 million. Why was the desire to give so powerful?

Much of the money raised was used to rebuild homes. It was decided to rebuild better - stronger homes more able to withstand future extreme weather.

Discuss how that might have felt for hundreds of thousands of displaced people. Can young people say in their own words why it makes sense to wait for sound materials and construction methods rather than rushing to build poorer quality homes?

Imagine you are a UK television news editor. How would you report the anniversary? What would you focus on?

Some options to consider might be the resilience of local people, the loss, the outside aid effort, the recovery, and how families in the UK and around the world might feel at this time.


Five-second rule

Speech bubbles on a blackboard© InfoYou drop a mince pie on the floor. Do you pick it up and eat it?

People who follow the five-second rule might. Invite the group to say, or guess what that is.

The phrase is among the latest entrants to It is defined as "a notional rule stating that food which has been dropped on the ground will still be uncontaminated with bacteria and therefore safe to eat if it is retrieved within five seconds."

A high-school student in the US did an experiment while interning at a university. She found that food dropped onto a floor she'd swabbed with e-coli picked it up in less than five seconds.

Do the results of the experiment change young people’s opinions about the validity of the five-second rule?

Explore the concept of a ‘notional rule’. Can young people think of any other common sayings that might influence their choices and decisions?

What makes people accept something as the truth? And what might make a person question a statement presented as a fact?

After an earthquake

A sign reading 'Please help us!' is displayed while children play outside their makeshift tents in rice fields in the Philippines

Children play, hours after a destructive earthquake. What do students want to know?

Read the activities >

Build resilience

School students taking part in a workshop

Students and teachers together reflect, explore and experiment with responses to some form of crisis.

Try the quick activities >


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