Palestine: developing empathy and understanding. Education ideas for schools by Kiri Tunks.

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October 11, 2012 by lambethteachers

The resources attached here, are designed for use with the powerful insightful book “A Little Piece of Ground”, a story set in Ramallah, Palestine.

Today Palestine is one of the big questions and it’s a question our students are asking whether we cover the topic in class or not. It’s certainly an issue that has had, and continues to have, a huge impact on the world stage and on all of our lives

The government has said it wants us to tackle controversial topics so that we engage with young people on these ‘big issues’ and I think that’s absolutely right. If young people can’t ask their teachers the difficult questions then what are we doing in schools?

So why don’t people tackle Palestine in schools? Perhaps people are worried they don’t know enough; maybe they are worried they will be accused of being partisan; that by teaching about Palestine they are somehow being anti-Jewish. This simply isn’t true. Further, by trying to skirt around the issue we do Palestinians and Israelis a great disservice.

This book is a way in. It’s a book set in Palestine. It’s a book about Palestine; but it’s also about a 12 year-old boy growing up trying to make sense of his world. It’s a book that doesn’t preach, it doesn’t offer solutions. In fact, it raises more questions than it answers.

And to those who say you shouldn’t teach it, I would turn the question round:
It’s a fabulous book: well written, empathetic & educational. Why wouldn’t you teach it?

So, to our pack: I’d like to say first of all what it isn’t

It isn’t a complete history or guide to the situation in Palestine. There are plenty of places where teachers can access statistics, guides, histories and so on written by people far more qualified than me.

It isn’t a scheme of work with clear links to National Curriculum levels or National Strategies.

It isn’t a teaching pack about Palestine.

It is a series of activities designed around the book, its story and its characters. It is aimed at developing empathy. I hope it will develop understanding.

It is a pack of suggested activities linked to and organised round different chapters. It is a mixture of ideas for teachers to pick and mix.

It is a genuine attempt to encourage teachers to take this book up in schools and to feel confident about teaching it, about getting others to teach it. It is a work in progress and one that I hope you will add to and share.

Kiri Tunks (East London Teachers Association)

The pack can be downloaded here

Kiri Tunk’s article on “Why we should teach about Conflict”, from Education for Liberation, can be downloaded here.


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