Teaching kids about Iraq can be challenging because this country has been torn by war for many years. Kids might have many questions after hearing about Iraq in the media or because they have family members and friends who are stationed there. However, this nation is part of a region that is referred to as the "cradle of civilization" because some of of the first recorded civilizations existed there. To help children understand Iraq, teach them about its geography and history, and its present-day culture and society as a war-torn region.
Illustrate the many civilizations in the region that is now Iraq by drawing a timeline. Begin with the Sumerians, the first recorded civilization in 3,000 B.C. Add Babylon and Mesopotamia to the timeline all the way to present-day Iraq. Compare this to when North America was discovered to show children just how long the civilizations in Iraq have existed.
Use resources such as National Geographic Kids to teach children historical firsts in the area. These include the first type of writing -- cuneiform -- that appeared in the state of Uruk during the Sumerian civilization. Additionally, King Hammurabi of Babylon established the first recorded system of government laws. Talk about what happened to many of the historical statues and other artifacts because of the U.S. war and what can be done to save them.
Explain the geographical significance of Iraq, such as where it is located, its neighboring countries and its two main rivers, the Euphrates and the Tigris. Use picture resources such as National Geographic Kids. Teach children why rivers are vital to making land fertile for farming and why cities would develop close to waterways.
Use age-appropriate lesson plans to incorporate the Iraq War into your regular history and current affairs curriculum. Some lesson plans tailor news articles for children, so that they are easy to understand and do not include graphic detail. Education World offers resources for how to help children learn and deal with war and related issues such as their fears.
Ask students to write about their feelings about the Iraq War. This creative writing exercise is better suited for older children ages 9 and older, who will already be questioning war. "The New York Times" offers a lesson plan that suggests using newspaper headlines and articles as a starting point. Read the article aloud and discuss it with the children. They can then express their emotions about the war in Iraq and how it affects them, through writing.
Introduce your kids or classroom to kids who live in Iraq by arranging a video conference with a school in that country. Invite Iraqi refugee families with children to speak to your classroom about what it was like to live in Iraq before and after the U.S. invasion. BBC Teaching Resources also offers a lesson plan that includes video messages and photos of children in Iraq. Children are better able to relate to their peers and learn from their experiences.
- War is viewed from many different perspectives and biases. Give children the facts and avoid projecting your own bias.
- If you are a teacher, respect the diversity in your classroom and avoid presenting Iraqis or any group people as the "other."
- Ensure that children are not exposed to disturbing and graphic images of war. Although children should be taught about the consequences of war, it is important to present this tactfully so that children are not traumatized or depressed.
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