Recent attacks on the magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher supermarket in Paris have led to increased security in parts of Europe.
These activities encourage young people to reflect on the humanitarian impact of these events, develop skills for coping in tense situations, and consider how they could support others who might be upset by the news.
How do you feel when armed soldiers are patrolling public spaces? How can you help yourself and others deal with shocking events? Is acting with humanity the same as acting heroically?
Explore these questions and more through photographs and prompt questions.
By the end of this activity young people will be able to:
- identify how they would cope in an unusual situation, such as finding themselves in a public space patrolled by armed soldiers
- consider how they could help themselves and others deal with the emotional impact of public attacks.
Look at the picture. Why are armed soldiers walking through a shopping centre?
Spend a few moments asking young people to reflect on recent news events that have led to increased security in parts of Europe, especially France.
After discussion, recap on what the group knows about:
- The attacks on the office of a satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris on 7 January 2015, in which 12 people died.
- Other fatal attacks in Paris, one on a Kosher supermarket in Paris in which four people were killed, and one in which a police officer was shot and killed.
- Troops on the streets of Belgian cities after a police operation in which two men were shot dead and another wounded.
- Increased security across Europe.
Look again at the photograph. It shows French soldiers on patrol in a shopping centre in Lyon on 16 January 2015. Thousands of troops and police were deployed to increase security after the attacks in Paris.
Invite young people to imagine what the soldiers are thinking and feeling.
- What might they be watching out for?
- Are they tense, relatively relaxed, or on ‘automatic’, putting their training into practice?
- How might you feel, walking around a shopping centre with a lethal weapon?
- Working in small groups, select one or two adjectives which you agree might describe how the soldiers are feeling.
Then turn to the adult with the children on the right of the picture.
- Select words to describe her possible feelings as the soldiers pass by.
- If you were her, how would you explain to a young child what was happening?
Coping with unusual situations
Explain to your group that you are going to take a show-of-hands vote on the following questions:
- Who thinks the presence of troops might reassure shoppers?
- Who thinks it could increase tension?
- Who thinks it could do both?
Ask young people what they are drawing on for their opinion. What experience of seeing armed security in public places do they have?
Sometimes we are unnerved by what is unusual.
How do young people manage themselves and their emotions in unnerving situations?
Think of a shopping centre near you. Imagine being there with friends and finding it patrolled by armed soldiers. Would it change how you would usually behave in that public space? Would you smile and say hello? Or keep well out of the way? Would you avoid boisterous or jokey behaviour?
Individually or in groups draw up a short checklist of things to do, and things you would avoid, when armed security is operating.
How would young people help a friend who felt worried by the presence of armed patrols in a public space?
[Note: You might find the Emotional support teacher briefing a useful reference source during these activities.]
Looking after yourself and others
If attacks happen people might feel upset or worried. What other emotions do young people associate with attacks?
What techniques do young people have for managing their emotions?
[Some examples might be playing sport, listening to music, talking to their family]
How would young people support a friend who was upset by the attacks? What would they say or do to support and reassure them?
Ask young people if they think people behave differently after attacks? What behaviours could young people adopt in order to feel safer? Invite suggestions from the group.
[Some examples might be: being vigilant, having a heightened awareness of yourself and others around you, and reporting suspicious behaviour or activity to the authorities.]
Hero or humanitarian?
Look at the photograph.
It shows hostages who survived an attack on the Hyper Cacher (kosher supermarket) in Paris. Journalists are keen to hear their stories. How do young people think the hostages would reply to an interview request?
A man who protected shoppers by hiding them in a cold store has been acclaimed as a hero by the French government.
Lassana Bathily denied being a hero, saying his actions were based on "human fraternity" and that everyone helps each other in a crisis. What do young people think about this statement?
How would young people define an act of humanity? What about an act of heroism? Can they identify similarities and differences?
Ask young people to write a poem or article about what humanity and heroism mean to them.
This resource was written by PJ White of Alt62 and published in January 2015