High school teachers discuss nuclear threats at professional development workshop

November 19th, 2019

Helping young people think critically about dangers from nuclear weapons was the goal of a one-day “teach-the-teacher” workshop held at United Nations Headquarters on 5 November 2019.

The New York City public high school educators who participated in the workshop considered how to raise awareness among their students about the risk of a nuclear accident or disaster. The event, drawing 38 registrants, was organized by Hibakusha Stories, an initiative of the non-governmental organization Youth Arts New York, in partnership with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. Activities throughout the day highlighted the stories of the Hibakusha, survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with the aim of helping younger generations reflect on and grasp the issues of nuclear disarmament.

The workshop participants posed for a photo with Hibakusha descendants as well as ICAN and UNODA staff.


The event began with a guided tour of the disarmament exhibit at United Nations Headquarters. The teachers were then greeted by Mr. Robert Croonquist and Ms. Kathleen Sullivan of Hibakusha Stories and by Mr. John Ennis, UNODA Chief of Information and Outreach.

John Ennis, UNODA Chief of Information and Outreach, gave an introductory speech to the teachers


After opening remarks by Hibakusha Stories and UNODA staff, attendees were briefed by Mr. Seth Shelden, United Nations Liaison for the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), about developments in the seventy-fourth session of the General Assembly’s First Committee on disarmament and international security.

Mr. Shelden spoke about the Nobel award the global coalition received in 2017 as well as the work of ICAN’s members to raise public and political awareness about nuclear weapons, including the potential destruction from a nuclear incident in the context of the ongoing arms race and international political tensions.

His presentation was followed by the screening of a video explaining the destructive effect of a nuclear explosion in a highly populated urban area.

“What if we nuke a city?”, a video by the animation studio Kurzgesagt – in a Nutshell, was screened to brief the audience on the devastating impact of a nuclear explosion, minute by minute.


Mr. Shelden, ICAN’s United Nations Liaison, presented the issues and stakes of nuclear disarmament


After a question-and-answer session, Ms. Kathleen Sullivan and Mr. Robert Croonquist, ICAN members and founders of Hibakusha Stories, gave a brief history of nuclear weapons and screened “If You Love This Planet”, a short animated film based on a speech that Ms. Setsuko Thurlow, a Hiroshima atomic bombing survivor, delivered at the TPNW’s adoption on 7 July 2017.

Ms. Kathleen Sullivan and Mr. Robert Croonquist, founders of Hibakusha stories


Following the film, Ms. Mitchie Takeuchi, a second-generation Hibakusha advocate, gave a testimony of about how her mother and grandfather had lived through the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Ms. Takeuchi, daughter of Hiroshima survivors, narrating her family experience and hardship after the bombing


At the start of the afternoon, the participants joined the Meet the Author Event at the UN Bookshop where Japanese-American author Ms. Kathleen Burkinshaw, the daughter of a Hiroshima survivor, presented her book, “The Last Cherry Blossom”. Based on her mother’s firsthand experience surviving the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, the book highlights the living conditions of Japanese children during the war and the immense damage caused by the explosion of atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on 6 and 9 August 1945.

The audience then began a discussion with the author and Ms. Sullivan, who considered how the Hibakusha and their families personally experienced the atomic bombings and their repercussions.

Ms. Kathleen Burkinshaw presenting her book “the Last Cherry Blossom” with Dr. Kathleen Sullivan


The event concluded with an exchange of views among the participants and an overview of several disarmament education resources.

Teachers taking part to a discussion on nuclear weapons role and the pedagogy necessary to tackle the topic


The professional development workshop was the eighth event of its kind held on Election Day in the United States, when public school teachers in New York City receive time to participate in continuing education activities.