March 24, 2011

Students discuss their own experiences of helping others, then view and discuss a brief video about Japanese children who are working together to help their community in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami.

Students will:

  • come up with a definition of community and discuss the different the communities they are a part of
  • talk about a time they have helped someone in their community and why
  • watch a video clip of a group of young boys helping their community in Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami
  • discuss what it feels like to help people and how it feels to receive help
  • discuss a time the students worked together to achieve a goal
  • come up with ideas of how to help people in Japan
Social and Emotional Skills:
  • explore feelings that come up when we help people and feelings that come up when we are being helped
  • step into the shoes of Japanese people and think about how they might feel at this time
  • work together to help other people in their time of need
Materials needed:


(10 min)

Ask students what the word "community" means. Come up with a definition along the lines of "a group of people living in the same area," or "a group of people who share something in common or have similar interests or goals."
Ask what communities the students are a part of. Write their responses on the board or chart paper. Responses might their family, their friends, their neighborhood, city, or country, their school or classroom, their linguistic or religious community, etc.
Next ask students to think about a time they have helped out someone in their community (family, neighborhood, school, or classroom). In pairs ask students to talk about what happened. Who did they help out and why?
Back in the full group, ask a few volunteers to share what they discussed. Also ask what it felt like to help other people.

Introduction and Background

(5 min)
Elicit and explain what has happened in Japan over the few weeks. Talk about the massive earthquake that struck off the coast of northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, which caused a tsunami - a tall wave that swept 10 miles inland dragging with it everything in its path, including cars, homes, and other large objects. Many people died. Others lost their homes and are now living in shelters. Some parts of Japan are still flooded and rubble is everywhere in the disaster zone. The tsunami also damaged a nuclear power plant, causing it to emit dangerous radiation in the area.

Microlabs: Band of Brothers

(15 minutes)

Ask students to watch the following 2-minute video clip from Al Jazeera English:
In small groups of three or four (microlabs) ask students to discuss:
  • Their thoughts and feelings about the clip
  • How do students think the boys feel about the work they are doing?
  • How they think the older people in the village might feel about what the boys are doing?
Reconvene the full group, and ask some volunteers to report to the full class what they talked about in their small groups. In the full group, discuss these questions with students:
  • The clip starts with the words "from the darkness into the light" as the boys emerge from a long dark tunnel into the light of day. Do they see the symbolism of these words? What do they symbolize?
  • How do students think this sentence relates to what is happening in Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami?
  • The boys are collecting supplies for the people from the community. In the clip the reporter says "not for themselves but for the hundreds of other survivors." Do you think the boys may be getting something out of their effort as well? What?

Microlabs: Working Together

(15 minutes)
Back in their small groups, ask students to think about a time they worked with others to achieve a goal.
  • What was that like? 
  • What were some of the things students needed to do to work well as a group?
  • What was the goal?
And as students think about the people in Japan
  • What do you think their need is right now?
  • What might be a goal they have?
According to the clip, the idea of volunteering started with one boy, who was soon joined by another, and then another ...
Is there a way you can think of that we, as a community, can help people in Japan? If so, how?


(5 minutes)
Ask students to share one word they feel relates well to today's lesson.

This lesson was written for TeachableMoment by Marieke van Woerkom, a trainer and global facilitator who works as a staff developer for Morningside Center.

We welcome your comments. Please email them to Marieke at:,or to Morningside Center at: