A Cross-Curricular Look at ‘Blood Diamonds & Conflict Minerals’

The following is a 3-4 day lesson-plan designed for a World Issues 120 class, on the topic of conflict diamonds and minerals.  It meets curriculum outcomes in both the Atlantic Canadian English Language Arts and World Issues 120 curriculum documents.

The resources available for a lesson on conflict diamonds and minerals are ideal for engaging students in the issue.  It is something that hits home with students when they realize electronics within their own home may contain what has been termed ‘conflict minerals,’ and this lesson-plan offers students a way to take a stand  and get involved as activists or ‘agents of change,’ projecting their voices to a larger audience, making the whole learning experience that much more meaningful.  Also, using social media as a learning tool, and bringing elements of today’s popular culture into the classroom such as; Kanye West’s ‘Diamonds of Sierra Leone’ music video, Lupe Fiasco’s musical commentary ‘Conflict Diamonds,’ or the Hollywood blockbuster ‘Blood Diamond,’ starring Leonardo Dicaprio as hooks from which to begin discussion, is also effective in engaging students.




Lesson Plan:

Grade 11-12     Blood Diamonds & Conflict Minerals (CLICK THIS LINK TO DOWNLOAD FULL LESSON PLAN)

PowerPoint Presentation:



It is important for students to have an understanding of world issues and their responsibility as a consumer in a global economy that sometimes balances human rights with commerce in the most ‘cost-effective’ manner. This lesson-plan seeks to connect everyday luxuries students here in the West enjoy to the atrocities that may or may not accompany their production. How can students become more responsible as consumers? What steps can you take to make a difference with regards to a cause you care about? How do you decide which causes to take a stand against? Do the issues have to directly affect you? They will answer these questions along the way.


In Central African Republic, Diamonds are Seleka Rebels’ Best Friend,’ the Huffington Post claimed this past May 2013.  This exists as evidence the issue of ‘conflict diamonds,’ first brought to the public eye back in the late nineties and targeted since by United Nations’ resolutions, is still a problem today.  In 2002 the Kimberley Process Certification scheme, aimed at halting the trade of illicit diamonds, was given approval by the U.N., who defined ‘conflict diamonds’ as

‘diamonds that originate from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council.’

In 2003, the United Nations Security Council formally supported the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme created in 2002 and attributed some successes to it such as an increase of legal diamond exports that will help support development in fragile nations, but the process does have it’s critics.  Some claim it is ultimately failing to curtail the flow of conflict diamonds, and that there is no guarantee a diamond accompanied by a Kimberley Process Certificate is in fact conflict-free, due to corrupt practices by government officials in some of the world’s leading diamond producing nations.  Global Witness, a non-governmental organization originally behind the scheme, and a key proponent to it’s creation, backed out of the Kimberley Process in 2011 due to what it saw as a failed attempt to stop the flow of conflict diamonds.


‘Blood diamonds’ are not the only natural resource being taken advantage of by rebel leaders and warlords in war-torn nations like the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Cassiterite, Columbite-Tantalite, Wolframite and Gold are now listed as ‘conflict minerals.’  These minerals have given rise to and funded genocide, murder, slavery, the recruitment of child-soldiers and mass-rape similar to how diamonds have contributed to these atrocities.  No standard exists for determining whether gold is conflict-free and what you may be surprised to know is that some of these other minerals are found in most of your electronics.  It is only in the last few years that electronics’ companies have started to take measures to ensure the use of conflict-free minerals in their products.  There is still much to be done on this front though, and some companies are making more progress than others.

News Articles:

In Central African Republic, Diamonds Are Seleka Rebels’ Best Friend     May 2013

Girls as Young as Six Raped by Congolese Soldiers in Minova     May 2013

At Least 20 Killed When Mine Collapses in Eastern Congo     May 2013

TAKE ACTION NOW!!!   Help influence responsible sourcing of conflict minerals. . .

Taking Action - Conflict Minerals

Bonus Activity:

Students can create an ‘Adbusters’ style poster related to the issue of ‘conflict diamonds and minerals.’  This activity may appeal to the more artistic or computer savvy students.  You can model how to do this by reviewing examples of faux tobacco ads located on the Adbusters website: https://www.adbusters.org/spoofads/tobacco

You can also find other examples of faux advertising used to get a point across on the ‘Badvertising’ website: http://www.badvertising.org/pages/04%20BADvertising%20Galleries/Before%20and%20After/Gallery%20of%20B%20and%20A%27s.htm  On this website they describe ‘Badvertising’ as the act of ‘doctoring up misleading advertisements to create a more accurate picture.’  It also provides instructions on how to ‘badvertise.’

Useful Websites:






Follow On Twitter:

@miningconflict               @StandNow

@Global_Witness             @EnoughProject

@RaiseHope4Congo        @CongoFriends


Lawrence (A Eulogy)

*This post is dedicated to Lawrence Douglas Sullivan (1937-2012)*

A eulogy can be an interesting work of literature to incorporate into an English Language Arts course. Many curricular goals will be achieved by using such a piece in your classroom, and facilitating an activity that will allow students to create their own. Deep, personal connections to the author of a eulogy strengthens the relevance of the lesson to students. It goes beyond only curricular goals too; opening doors to creativity, strengthening a culture of respect within the classroom, and can be quite a therapeutic activity as well, providing a forum to nurture a troubled or mourning soul.

The word ‘eulogy’ is derived from the Ancient Greek word ‘eulogia,’ which translated literally means ‘good words.’  The modern definition states that a eulogy is a speech or writing in praise of a person or thing, generally created for one that has recently died or retired.  My suggestion as to length a eulogy should be, would generally be about 4-7 minutes.

Suggested Activities:

Social Studies: Read a eulogy to the students written by a public figure in regards to another noteworthy public figure.  Analyze that Eulogy with your class looking at techniques used, such as perhaps fusing funny stories with sad commentaries in remembrance of the one who passed to create a ‘full-bodied’ literary piece that works well upon presentation.  Once some of the methods used to write a eulogy are deciphered as a class, you may want to hand out a second example for students to read silently.  Reconvene as a class and have a discussion about what this author may have done differently or the same to get their points across.  Finally, students will be summatively assessed on their ability to write their own eulogy. Names of famous historical figures that have passed away will be drawn from a hat by students, and they will be assigned to write a eulogy for that person.  This cross-curricular activity will nail curricular goals in both Social Studies and English Language Arts curriculum documents, most likely requiring students to do some research to get more fully acquainted with these individuals.  They should take extra care when researching their assigned figure to note personal lives and traits that will help them write a more effective and focused eulogy.

English: As suggested in the previous activity, before beginning the summative aspect of this lesson, students should be introduced to examples of eulogies.  Perhaps the teacher assigning students this activity can go as far as writing their own eulogy regarding a close personal connection in their life that has been lost, and share it with the class.  Once students are acquainted with the idea of a eulogy and what it entails, they will be asked to write a eulogy for someone close to them they have lost in the past, focusing on personal connection, imagery and anecdotes that will strengthen the effect of their piece.  Perhaps students, on a volunteer basis, can share their final copies with the class orally.  This activity may prove to be an excellent relationship building tool for your English Language Arts classroom, both teacher-student and between students.  If a student claims they do not have anyone they can think of to write about, perhaps they might have a pet that can be commemorated by their work.

1 – Famous Eulogy Speeches

2 – Famous Eulogy Speeches (Videos)

3 – Justin Trudeau Delivers Eulogy for his Father Pierre (CBC Archives)

4 – Full Text of Stephen Lewis’s Eulogy for Jack Leyton

5 – ‘Your Tribute,’ Funeral and Grief Resources (How to Write a Eulogy)

6 – Do You Have A Eulogy to Write? Funeral Speeches Step-By-Step

Lawrence (A Eulogy for my Grandfather)

Written By Christoper Gardner

Well, I guess I’m here to wish farewell to a good man, Mr. Lawrence Douglas Sullivan.

A wise man once said; “Be of good cheer about death, and know this as a truth – that no evil can happen to a good man, either in life or after death.”

I’m the lucky grandchild of Lawrence that for twenty-plus years enjoyed the pleasure of waking up every Christmas morning to find him in our home; ready to rip open presents, chat, listen to Christmas tunes and chow down on dinner, with my brother Lucas, and later on sister Marilyn as well.  Then he would be off to make his rounds to visit the rest of his children and grandchildren.  So for today’s purposes I will refer to him as what he was to me, Grampy.

Grampy, who we could count on every Harvest to bless our homes with fresh vegetables from his gardens he took so much pride in.  Grampy, who lived in the little red house in California Settlement with his beloved German Shepard that would chase the kids through the field, while he was off in the distance building a brand new garage for his property.  My father was helping him, and I believe Uncle Jeff was there lending a hand too, at least in my memory.

He loved the country.  He was asked many times by his children to consider moving to the city, but this is where his heart was.  Four Falls, Grand Falls, Perth-Andover.  Old fashion living.  That will forever be his home.  He loved his beer.  We all know that.  Now, I wouldn’t venture at a funeral service to estimate what his record was for a twenty-four hour period, while on vacation, but I’ll just say that Benjamin Franklin once stated; “Beer is proof that God loves us, and wants us to be happy,” and I think Grampy would agree.  However, if he was down to his last two, and you looked like you could use one, you can be sure that he would share.  That’s the kind of man he was.

Sometimes stubborn in his ways, but he loved all of his children, Larry, Tammy, Cindy, Joan (mom), Jeff, Roger and you all know it.  He loved his family, and he would help them anytime it was in his cards to do so.  He was a man’s man, as was so eloquently put last night.

Author George Eliot wrote that; “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.”  I guess that means that Lawrence, Grampy will live for many years to come, in our hearts.  I know I’ll see to that, as will Lucas, Jocelyn & Jason, Hudson, Danny, Corey and Nick, Katie, Colton and Morgan, and all of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren that love him dearly.

Thank you.

Bomb Shelter (Leadership Activity)

This is a great activity I came across while teaching Leadership 120 at the high-school level.  After students have completed this activity in groups, and presented their choices to the class as a whole, I would suggest returning to the list and having them narrow it down even further.  After narrowing the choices down to six survivors, perhaps next they will narrow it down to four, then choose just one after that if you want to stretch this activity out.

Edu-Tweet ‘Em

In the 21st Century, student needs, interests and primary means of communication are far different than in the past. As educators, embracing these changes can be very valuable in connecting with students while increasing learning. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter are part of the daily lives of students today, and creating a lesson-plan that capitalizes on that lifestyle can increase student engagement while providing opportunities for teachable moments with regards to the digital imprints students leave online.

I’ve created a lesson-plan that uses Twitter to meet nearly every Atlantic Canadian English Language Arts curriculum outcome, while engaging students in current events and controversial topics that are cross-curricular in nature.  It is an activity that will work well in a Social Studies setting and requires students to read a current event article selected by the teacher.  After students read the article, instead of the traditional journal entry, they will log on to Twitter via netbooks, computer lab, Smart Phones or any other available technology and post a ‘tweet’ responding to the article.  The teacher should encourage the students to ‘tag’ relevant people or organizations in their response and to use ‘hash-tags’ in order to reach a wider audience.  Once students have responded to the article in one or two tweets, they will be required to read, ‘re-tweet’ and reply to at least three of their classmates’ responses..  In order for this activity to be successful, as well as enhance the learning environment within the classroom will require the teacher to create a Twitter account for use within the classroom/school, as well as having the entire class ‘follow’ each other before the activity begins.  It is recommended that teachers create a specific account solely for use within the school, rather than using their own personal Twitter account should they already have one.

It is my belief that students will take a greater interest in subject matter when interacting through a somewhat exciting medium presented to us by inevitable technological advancements that have become common forms of communication among today’s students. Also, because of the fact that tweets are being published via an online forum, reaching a much wider audience than the classroom, students may put more thought into what they say about certain subjects, and the activity may seem more purposeful.  Limited characters in a Twitter post will require students to be more poignant.  They will need to ‘get to the point’ in less words.

A possible hook to this lesson plan could be simply to educate students on their ‘digital imprint,’ which is attached to forums such as Twitter and other social media, and how it can affect future opportunities.  An article such as the Globe & Mail piece, ‘Twitter Hands Your Data to the Highest Bidder, But Not to You,’ could be used as a springboard for class discussion.

If all goes well, you may choose to make this a weekly activity or a replacement for journals.

Suggested Current Events as of June 1, 2012 that may be of interest for this activity (Involving Social Studies Outcomes):

Protests in Quebec Against Tuition Hike, Obama Support Same-sex Marriage in the United States, Pulling Troops Out of Afghanistan, Kony 2012, US Slashes Aid to Pakistan Over Jailing Doctor who Aided in Locating bin Laden, Harper’s Crime Bill, Drilling for Oil in the Arctic, Can Child Obesity Lead to Child Abuse Charges?, Will the Next Generation be Worse off Financially?, Nuclear Iran, Abortion, Euthanasia, Is Using Social Media to Combat the Status Quo a Case of Irrelevant ‘Lazy Activism?’ . . .

This activity can be adapted to many different subject areas.  For example it could be used in a media class or English Language Arts class where students could provide commentary or a response to a fictional story, film or other discursive source as well.

CLICK HERE ——–>>> EduTweetEm to download a printable version of this lesson plan including curriculum outcomes, teaching strategies and reflection questions. #Enjoy

-Christopher Gardner

Sleep Tight Fellow Citizens

I want to take a minute to point students, parents and fellow educators alike to a recent article I came across in the Globe & Mail, written by Adriana Barton. It contains very IMPORTANT information regarding sleeping patterns; habits that adversely affect teaching and learning and are linked to dire health concerns.

In the article, Barton refers to an ABC News report that states, “People who get less than six hours of sleep a night are twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack.” Now as a teacher, I understand the workload can be overwhelming at times with all of the marking, lesson design, planning and family pressures and have myself been guilty of not getting enough sleep. However, I urge teachers to set a time each night, and regardless of the situation, ensure you put the schoolwork away and get some much needed relaxation so that you are fully refreshed for the following morning. Perhaps you were not able to get as much done as you wanted, but the quality of your discussion and pedagogical methods is sure to increase, and you just may be saving your own life, at least to a degree. Going through the education program last year, we discussed how sometimes teachers can ‘burn out,’ and I have a feeling that in many cases the reason this happens is due to lack of sleep. Personally, I’m going to make a concerted effort NOT to fall into this trap.

Almost one-third of Canadian adults get less than six to eight hours of sleep per night, according to the article, and other effects derived from this besides the risk of heart attack include; excess stress hormones, workplace accidents, weight gains, and links to diabetes.  Dr. Rosie Lewis had this to add:

One of the serious effects of sleep deprivation is sleep apnea, in which the person chokes while sleeping during the night. This risk can be accelerated by alcohol or prescription drug use. So what causes sleep deprivation?

  • Insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep),
  • Hectic lifestyles
  • Health issues
  • Medication side effects
  • Sleep apnea
  • Poor eating habits
  • Staying up to late or irregular hours”

( http://sbvoice.blog.sbc.edu/2012/02/21/woman-to-woman-talk-sbc-health-wellness/ )

The bottom line is “sleeping too little or too much increases the chances of death from stroke and coronary artery disease,” and we need healthy, bright-eyed teachers in our schools to promote healthy sleeping patterns among students, an effort indirectly contributing to improving community relations, reducing emergencies and producing higher quality learning initiatives.

-Adriana Barton, March 27, 2012

The Tragedy of Canadian History

J.L. Granatstein, author of ‘Who Killed Canadian History,’ wrote that “Canada must be one of the few nations in the world, certainly one of the few Western industrialized states, that does not make an effort to teach its history positively and thoroughly to its young people” (xii). The question is WHY?

Granatstein went on to claim part of the reason for this is to be blamed on ‘multicultural values,’ and Canada’s efforts to be as open and appealing to diversity as possible. He says that Canada “must be one of the few political entities to overlook its own cultural traditions – the European civilization on which our nation is founded – on the grounds that to do otherwise would systematically discriminate against those who came from other cultures” (xii). Is this really a plausible excuse for the decline of Canadian historical knowledge and learning among young people though?  To me it seems more of a cop out and our heritage as Canadians, from European descent, through to immigration policies and multicultural initiatives should all be covered appropriately, in order to protect our culture.  TEACHERS, I WOULD LIKE TO HEAR YOUR THOUGHTS AND SOLUTIONS TO THIS?

Personally, as a supply teacher I think there is something else to be attributed to Granatstein’s question; that is a responsibility falling on teachers and educators to ENGAGE students in the study of Canada.  This is something many teachers are having a problem doing while teaching Canadian History, even today, perhaps because of the way they were taught about Canada.  And the cycle continues. . .

Students claim to ‘hate,’ and are extremely bored by these documentaries about Parliament etc. that are all facts, produced in the traditional documentary style.  An example of such a documentary that didn’t go over well at all with students during my experience as a supply teacher was one called ‘Jewel On The Hill.’  Also, reading large, out-of-date, mostly print textbooks, and answering questions at the end of each chapter is a very ineffective activity for engaging students and creating meaningful learning opportunities.  I say the onus should actually fall on teachers to revive an excitement for Canadian History within our society, being the ‘soldiers of knowledge’ on the front-lines of this battle to guide students towards enlightenment that we are.  Relying on such tiresome documentaries, and dare I say VHS videos in 21st Century classrooms, such as the one mentioned above is not going to reach these students. More exciting methods of teaching Canadian History, and ensuring it is part of General History classrooms as well, need to be enacted.  In fact, every effort should be made by teachers in Canada to relate most historical and political lessons back to Canada, to students’ communities and  their personal lives, complete with interesting hooks.  Many Canadians have been unfortunately misled to believe that we have few to no heroes/interesting characters within our history that would engage young people, but this is not true.  Educators, let us REVIVE CANADIAN HISTORY, restore interest in the subject and expose those great Canadian heroes and moments that many Canadians have forgotten, or were never introduced to.  This will require careful lesson-planning and creative approaches to the subject.  As far as multiculturalism, the Great Canadian experiment, well teachers can take the time to make connections between Canadian History lessons and students’ countries of origin within their diverse classroom.  A few extra minutes of research and building healthy student/teacher relationships could go a long way in improving teaching and learning in this case, and teachers may even learn something about international relations, foreign policy and other cultures from the discussions to arise from these efforts.  Remember, teachers are NOT dictators of knowledge, but facilitators of learning and creating lessons where students and teachers are able to work and learn together are just great in my book, creating more meaningful learning opportunities, and a greater sense of importance behind the lesson among students.

SOME Suggested Activities:

1) Read an INTERESTING Canadian story related to historical events, perhaps even a children’s storybook (even in high-school)  -10 mins.

2) Controversial political article from today that can be traced back to historical events, accompanied by an informal journal entry  -10 to 15 mins.

3) Formal or informal class debate on key ‘touchy’ social issues from Canada’s past, where opinions are sure to fall on both sides of the fence related to Canadian politics and history  -20 to 50 mins.

4) Analysis of political cartoons related to historical events in Canadian History  -20 to 50 mins.

5) Have students write/create/produce or act out their own Canadian Heritage commercial  -1 to 5 classes

6) Have students sign up for a Twitter account; read an article from a credible Canadian news source (Globe & Mail, CBC, Huffington Post etc.); Tweet a link to the article on their account; Tweet a response to the article; Tweet a reply to another student’s response  -20 to 50 mins.

7) Have students act out a mock session of Parliament, assigning different roles, with the goal of attempting to pass a new bill   -1 class

8) If students seem uninterested in the topic of Canadian History in a class where it is a mandatory curricular requirement, this situation can easily be flipped into a highly engaging effective learning unit.  Help guide students in discovering why they are uninterested in Canadian History, what effect the methods used to teach the subject in the past had on their interest, and what general things they ARE interested in.  The teacher can then use this information to develop a unit in which students will tap into their creativity and be expected to design and teach their OWN lesson on an assigned aspect of Canadian History, that if possible is linked with personal interests AND aligned with curricular outcomes simultaneously.  This is not just any lesson they are designing though, and that is where the creativity comes in, because they cannot teach using the same so-called ‘boring’ methods in which they claim to dislike.  Students must be as creative as possible and show how they would liven up Canadian History and make it more exciting for students of the 21st Century if they were the teacher.  Even introduce students directly to the curriculum and provide some examples to get their creativity in motion.  This is a unit I will DEFINITELY try during my teaching career that should turn out to be very fun and rewarding.  -10 to 20 classes

History Bites – Explorers Discover Canada – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksYSCWpFKBo

Jim Carey on Canada, Funny Icebreaker – Canadian Stereotypes/Symbols – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ic3xNfEP_o

The Effect of Justin Bieber’s 18th Birthday on the Canadian Political Landscape (Peter Mansbridge) – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQFtElH2kIg

Americans on Canada (REALLY FUNNY) – Canadian Stereotypes/US-Canada Relations – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4EDZNlTPpg

Controversial News Report on Islamic Terrorism and Canada, Stephen Harper – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4LJ-WrQSBI

Muslims in Canada Call For Stoning People – Rule of Law/Immigration/Multiculturalism – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvF2-Rf1zO4&feature=related

Important Moments In Canadian History (Reference) http://www.ubc.ca/okanagan/creative/links/his_home.html

Granatstein, J.L. (2007) Who Killed Canadian History?, Revised Ed. Toronto: Harper Collins Publishers Ltd. Toronto.

Good Morning Revolution (SnapShot Poetry)

Check out this fun and engaging method of encouraging poetry analysis in the classroom. It is known as ‘SnapShot Poetry.’ “Has a single line of poetry ever ‘jumped out at you’ -or- ‘spoken to you’ in a voice that remains with you to this day? A few words that project powerful pictures that flash on the movie screen of your mind’s eye? That is what this assignment is all about” (Philip Sexsmith). A SnapShot Poetry Assignment has students choosing a poem or song of interest to them and isolating the key line that ‘speaks to them.’ They will then visually interpret this line through a digital photograph in which they will incorporate that line into the photograph. Check out my example of Snapshot Poetry below as I enlist my photography skills to visually interpret Langston Hughes poem Good Morning Revolution.

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