A natural disaster is unavoidable, and unavoidably heartbreaking. As the rest of the world watched in fear as Japan shook recklessly from earthquake after tsunami after earthquake, little did they know that the devastating visible damage was the least of their worries. Underneath the mass amounts of shattered glass and collapsed buildings lay a silent enemy. Japan’s nuclear plants were in danger of losing their cooling systems, which could lead to drastic overheating of the reactors. A group of 200 young workers, later meriting the title The Fukushima 50, understood the danger this put the nation in and opted to work in the most dangerous zones after the earthquake to insure that the plant stayed cool.
There mission is entitled “feed and bleed”, where they feed the cold seawater onto the reactor to maintain its cool temperature while the steam bleeds away the heat. Remarkably, many of these workers are anonymous and few know who actually stayed behind. Even at this point in time, it is unclear the actual danger they are facing. Nevertheless, they work relentlessly and with a purpose greater than themselves.
Our classrooms provide us with a shield to protect our children from the devastation outside our school walls. We, as educators, have the capabilities to shut our blinds, close our doors and continue our studies on the Fertile Crescent and Roman Emperors. However, are we actually doing more harm than good by not addressing the actual history that is occurring around us? Often we expect too little from our students and believe that it would be too challenging or too inappropriate to present students with world news. Yet, with a well-thought out plan and detailed preparation, teachers need to use these teachable moments to embrace current events as a learning experience for students.
Visual literacies are an effective means of portraying events to children in a manner that can be controlled and made appropriate for various ages. Allow students to view pictures of workers and explain the task they are accomplishing. Encourage students to share their own thoughts and responses to the pictures, videos or new articles that have been shown tothe class. After all, it is not unlikely that a student has a connection to the story in some form.
Or, some students may prefer to keep their thoughts to themselves and would require an alternative form of reflection. Have students write a journal entry as if they were to put themselves in the place of a nuclear plant worker. Would you see yourself as a hero? Or is this just an unstated part of the job? Students can stay up-to-date on how they can help he Fukushima 50 by following the Facebook page attributed to the 200 brave workers.
As a teacher, how do you decide what to bring into the classroom and what to leave outside its doors?
Students, do you prefer the incorporation of world events into the classroom? Why do you think current events should be a vital part of all classroom curriculums? Or, why not?