On 8 November 2022, a group of public high school teachers located across New York City participated in a workshop about disarmament education and nuclear disarmament.
25 educators attended the event, which 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 (UNODA). The professional development workshop forms part of UNODA’s efforts to engage with educators to strengthen and expand disarmament education across the globe.
The event began with a guided tour of the disarmament exhibit at the United Nations Headquarters, which stirred emotions in the participants, particularly in response to seeing the statue of Saint Agnes from Urakami Cathedral and personal artifacts from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Mr. Adedeji Ebo, Director and Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, delivered opening remarks to the group, emphasizing the importance of disarmament education in imparting knowledge and skills to individuals to contribute to the ultimate goal of general and complete disarmament. “Only through education can we empower individuals, from all over the world, to meaningfully participate in disarmament efforts, and help realize our goal of a peaceful and secure world,” he said.
Ms. Pam Kingfisher of the Cherokee Nation shared her testimony as a ‘daughter of plutonium’, highlighting the health consequences of nuclear weapon research and development and her experience as an indigenous woman.
Then, Mx. Ray Acheson, Director of Reaching Critical Will, shared an overview of the latest developments within the disarmament field and reported on the recent discussions of the General Assembly First Committee, as well as on the dangerous rhetoric around nuclear weapons in the context of the war in Ukraine, and the path forward.
In the afternoon, presenters shared resources and ideas for teachers to bring disarmament into their classrooms.
Ms. Yukimi Kubo, Associate Political Affairs Officer at UNODA, and Ms. Marykate Monaghan, Youth Consultant, presented on the Office’s range of activities and efforts to facilitate disarmament education and . Ms. Kubo spoke about ways in which strengthened Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education efforts can contribute to building a safer, more sustainable world for all. “This is fundamentally a universal issue, and so needs universal engagement – with all youth. That is why educators are very important…We are producing the future that will be able to tackle these issues now. The choices we make determine who is going to be a part of that future, and how broad and diverse that group will be,” she said.
She also highlighted numerous tools provided by UNODA for educators to use with their students, including the educational materials available on the Disarmament Education Dashboard and the Disarmament Education website. Ms. Marykate Monaghan introduced the programmes and activities provided by UNODA’s #Youth4Disarmament initiative to engage, educate, and empower youth in disarmament.
Then, Mr. Nathan Synder of NYC iSchool presented his initiatives to engage students on the nuclear weapons legacy of New York City. This included programmes where students measure and record radiation levels leftover from the Manhattan Project carried out at Columbia University and an assignment to develop public service announcements on the risk posed by nuclear weapons. Mr. Robert Croonquist of Hibakusha Stories provided a brief demonstration on Kamishibai, a historic Japanese form of storytelling known as “paper theater” and highlighted art as a creative avenue to engage and educate students on the testimonies shared by atomic bomb survivors, known in Japanese as the Hibakusha.
The event concluded with small group discussions to exchange ideas for lesson plans on the topics explored during the workshop.
The professional development workshop was the ninth 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. This year’s edition marked the resumption of the in-person event after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.