This is a legacy provincial website of the ATA. Visit our new website here.

Social studies the epicentre for discussions about conflict

March 15, 2022 Kim Clement, ATA News Staff


The crisis in Ukraine can be a difficult topic to cover in class, yet it’s only natural that it would come up, particularly in social studies. So how can a social studies teacher approach the subject of war and violence while protecting the mental health of their students?

“Social studies teachers try to walk the fine line of protecting the mental health of our students while also exposing them to what is really happening in the world,” said Jennifer Williams, president of the ATA’s Social Studies specialist council.

For any teacher who might be unsure of how to start the conversation, Williams suggests to first be mindful that some students may be easily triggered by topics involving violence, so it is important to provide them with a warning before delving into a discussion.

“Many teachers I talked to also said that they will show clips from mainstream news sources, as these are images that students may also encounter online or at home, and then provide time for students to ask questions and comment — allowing the classroom to be the space for students to understand these troubling events,” she said.

Williams added that students need to have good media literacy skills to help them verify sources of information, particularly with social media misinformation becoming so prevalent.

“Fifteen years ago, media literacy was something I saw as a good idea, but today it is essential. I start every semester with students going through the media literacy tools from CIVIX,” she said.

CIVIX is a national non-profit organization that offers a program on media literacy.

“When we are discussing current events, if the student shares information that I am not sure of, I will say ‘That’s interesting’ and then encourage them to use their phone to find the source of that information — and they know they will need to have a reputable news source to share.”

If teachers model good media literacy in the classroom, students will start doing it themselves when they are looking for information on world events online, Williams says.

Despite the difficulty of addressing these topics, Williams noted that many teachers feel that students shouldn’t be sheltered from distressing world events.

“They need to know what other people around the world are experiencing so they can evaluate what their role is in our various communities.” ❚


Also In This Issue