Category Archives: Teaching Justice Issues

Big Puppets Speak out for Justice


Kate McCabe and Nancy Greenall were the successful recipients of a Culture of Peace 4 Kids grant. Please read their blog post which details their project. IMG_3958

December 10th is the next date to apply for a Culture of Peace for Kids Grant.  Go to the Acts of Transformation:  From War Toys To Peace Art Site for details.

A group of Self-Design students met for a total of 3 hours per week for 11 weeks to study Justice and participate in Big Puppet making classes. Below is a write up of some of the major concepts that were covered during that time.

We started off with a deep conversation to come up with a definition of what justice is. Comments around ethics, point of view, different belief systems, definition of right and wrong, societal influences, lack of communication… were part of the discussion. They each wrote out different scenarios, events, issues etc. that they felt either represented justice or injustice. We looked at the Jean ValJean dilemma and discussed that scenario – the law and flexibility, learning a lesson, rehabilitation, effects of time, compassion, fairness, same or different laws for rich and poor… It was great, and difficult, for them to see that things were not always black and white and that there were many complications and factors in determining justice.

Learners did a web quest to research different kinds of governments and discussed the pros and cons of each before identifying specific countries that were examples of each. After generating a list of justice issues students had a debate. This led to conversations about conflict resolution strategies and reflective listening skills.

When it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day we discussed who he was. Several of the learners heard Dr. King’s son speak at We Day the previous year. We listened to Dr. King giving his famous “I have a dream…” speech. This prompted discussions on racism. We read another book called “Sit-in”. This book told the story of the four black college students who started the sit-ins at Woolworth’s department store and how this action was loving resistance that brought about significant change as taught by Dr. King. From there we looked at the differences between racism, discrimination and bullying and they began a Venn diagram identifying those actions. We also looked at samples of micro aggressions and what they can look like as well as how they could deal with it when they witnessed it.


We also did a survey to see which social justice issues they wanted to pursue and it was decided that we would spend about two weeks on each of the following –racism, poverty, child labour, and environmental issues rather than deal with one or two in greater depth.

Interactive and cooperative games were included along the way to reinforce various issues and provide real life examples of the concepts covered.

Learners also selected a community issue that they felt needed attention and then made a plan to take action. One group of students collected food and raised money to buy coats for a nearby food bank and shelter. The other group made and sold cookies and popcorn to buy toys and supplies for a local animal shelter.

While the Justice classes were going on the children were beginning to make their puppets. It was a very time consuming project. They broke into groups and decided on an issue for their play. Developing their scripts gave them opportunities to use their conflict resolution skills and reflective listening. Once the puppets and scripts were completed they continued practicing until the performance day. On the last day of class parents, siblings and guests were invited to come and watch as the groups performed their skits and spoke about their chosen justice issue. It was a great culminating event!