Ripples of Genocide: Journey Through Eastern Congo
For Teachers
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Getting started in the classroom

As is the case with many current events around the world, the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) can be complex and difficult to understand. As a result, discussing the crisis in the DRC with your students can be daunting. The following suggestions are based on the premise that learning is a process, and both students and teachers can learn together. All of the suggested activities utilize the Museum’s Web site and may be adapted to fit the technological needs of your classroom.

Course of Study
It is highly recommended that the Web site and these classroom activities be incorporated into a larger course of study. These learning activities would be appropriate for the following courses of study:

  • World cultures
  • Current events
  • Western civilization
  • African history, especially colonialism
  • Holocaust and genocide studies
Each of these objectives corresponds to a classroom activity below.

Students will be able to:

  • Use the Web resources provided in Ripples of Genocide to learn about recent events in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and efforts to prevent genocide
  • Compare and contrast varying accounts and perspectives of the conflict in the DRC
  • Utilize primary source materials (first-hand accounts, photographs) of the conflict in the DRC to learn about what is happening there and to learn about ways in which to tell others about the conflict
  • Discuss the causes of genocide, the role of human rights organizations in calling international attention to human rights abuses and the threat of genocide, and the challenges inherent in preventing genocide from occurring
  • Monitor current events and develop ideas about what they can do to raise awareness about events in the DRC
National Standards—From the National Council for the Social Studies

  • Culture and Cultural Diversity (NCSS Standard I):
    Analyze and explain the ways groups, societies, and cultures address human needs and concerns.

  • Time, Community, Change (NCSS Standard II):
    Apply key concepts such as time, chronology, causality, change, conflict, and complexity to explain, analyze, and show connections among patterns of historical change and continuity.

  • People, Places, Environment (NCSS Standard III):
    Examine, interpret and analyze physical and cultural patterns and their interactions, such as land use, settlement patterns, cultural transmission of customs and ideas, and ecosystem changes.

  • Power, Authority, Governance (NCSS Standard VI):
    Examine persistent issues involving the rights, roles, and status of the individual in relation to the general welfare.

  • Global Connections (NCSS Standard IX):
    Examine conditions and motivations that contribute to conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among groups, societies, and nations.

[a]Find out more
Understanding what is happening in a country like the DRC can be overwhelming. Breaking the events down into smaller topics may give students an opportunity to become familiar with a small subsection of the conflict and, through sharing, better understand the whole.

Begin by providing students with the overview, glossary, and maps to familiarize them with basic information about the conflict and humanitarian crisis in the DRC. Then, using the list of topics below—which correspond to chapters within the Ripples of Genocide Web journal—assign a student or group of students responsibility for finding information about a specific topic from the Web site. In addition, have the students select an image from their chapter that they think best represents the topic. After researching their assigned topic, the individual students or groups will report back to the class about what they found and why they chose the image they did.

  • Displacement and hunger
  • Child soldiers
  • Militias and armed groups
  • Attacks on villages/Collapse of coping systems
  • Rape and counseling

[b] Comparing accounts
Ripples of Genocide incorporates the first-hand accounts of two individuals who visited the DRC, Angelina Jolie and John Prendergast. Angelina is an actress and UNHCR goodwill ambassador. John is a policy analyst with the International Crisis Group. Each of them has a different perspective on what they saw and experienced and what was happening around them.

Either as a class, in groups, or individually—depending on the technology—have students compare and contrast the two accounts.

  • What kind of information do the students get from Angelina’s account? John’s? How are they similar? How are they different?

  • Why are these two accounts different?

  • What is the effect on the viewer of these differing accounts?

  • Which perspective did students find more moving, persuasive, convincing, sympathetic, or boring? Why?

  • What are the positive and negative aspects of using first-hand accounts to learn about the situation in the DOR, or any situation for that matter?

[c] Interpreting images
Divide students into small groups, and assign each group one of the photographs from the collection above. Print out and distribute the Interpreting a Photograph worksheet to each group and have them answer the worksheet questions for their photograph.

NOTE: It does not matter at this point if the students have any background information about the Congo. The objective is for students to exercise critical viewing and thinking skills.

  • After working in their groups, have each group share its photograph and observations with the rest of the class.
  • After each group has finished, explain to the students that the photographs they just interpreted are from DRC and were taken in 2003 by photographer Ed Parsons.
  • As a class, in groups, or individually—depending on the technology in the classroom—have students explore the Ripples of Genocide Web site, and in the course of doing so find the photographs they interpreted. Have them find out as much information about the pictures and the context in which they were taken as possible.
  • Once they have more information about the photographs, have students meet again in their groups with the original photographs. Based on their new knowledge, how have their interpretations and inferences about the photographs changed? Has their understanding about what was happening changed?
  • Thinking about the two types of sources used in the Web site—first-hand accounts and photographs—ask students to analyze the differing effect of hearing a first-hand account and seeing through a photograph. Was one source more persuasive or believable than the other?
  • Have them write new captions for the photographs reflecting the new knowledge that they have learned.

  • Provide additional materials so that each group can create a poster using its photographs and/or other images from the Web site. The purpose of the poster will be to inform other students in the school about what is happening in the DRC.
  • Each poster should include:
    • a headline or title that will draw attention to it;
    • the photograph and/or image collage created by the group;
    • a caption that explains what is happening in the photographs and in the DRC; and
    • a Web address for students to find out more information.
  • Students who are more comfortable working in electronic media may choose to create a Web site or CD presentation about the DRC.

[d] Discussion questions
As a class, in groups, or individually—depending on the technology in the classroom—have students explore Ripples of Genocide: Journey through Eastern Congo and discuss the following questions. Students may use the glossary, overview, and maps as reference resources during the discussion.

  • John asserts that “if there had been no genocide in Rwanda, there would have been no subsequent war in the Congo.” How did the Rwandan genocide and subsequent refugee problem catalyze violence and war in Congo?

  • What factors have contributed to ongoing instability, resulting in massive suffering and death of civilians in the DRC? Cite examples from Angelina and John’s narratives to support your answers.

  • Ultimately, who is responsible for protecting the civilians in the DRC and guaranteeing their human rights?

  • Does the United States have an obligation to help solve or improve the situation? If so, how and why?

  • If someone stopped you on the street today after school and asked you about what was happening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, how would you explain it to them?

[e] News watch journal
After the Holocaust, many Americans claimed that they had heard nothing about the discrimination and murder of Europe’s Jews by Nazi Germany. Historians, however, have shown that news about the Holocaust was printed in many American newspapers while the events were taking place. The stories were not always on the front page—although sometimes they were—but information about these atrocities was in the papers. Is this true today regarding the Democratic Republic of the Congo? Is there information available?

Create a News Watch Journal:
Over the course of a week have students scan newspapers and web sites for stories that focus on the DRC. When an article is found, the student should record what they learned in a News Watch Journal (notebook or electronic). In this journal they should record the name of the paper or Web site, title of the story, date, page number (if applicable), and a one to two paragraph synopsis of what they read. While students may not be able to travel to the DRC like Angelina and John did, they can create a journal that brings together what knowledge and impressions of the situation they might have.
  • At the end of a week, review together as a class what the students have found. What subsequent information did they learn about the DRC and the events happening there?

  • Is the story being covered in the students’ local newspapers? If not, you may want to have the students contact the editors of the newspaper.

  • Raising awareness through the local news media is one step toward helping people who are suffering in the DRC. Have students discuss other concrete actions they can take.

[f] Web links
Students may want to reference the following Web sites (NOTE: With the exception of the Committee on Conscience, these Web sites are not products of United States Holocaust Memorial Museum research. Therefore the Museum cannot guarantee the accuracy of information found on these sites).

Committee on Conscience of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

International Crisis Group and John Prendergast

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Angelina Jolie

The Crisis in Democratic Republic of Congo: An Overview
Amnesty International

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)

Committee on Conscience

International Crisis Group

Displacement and Hunger
World Health Organization

Child Soldiers
Amnesty International

Amnesty International

Global Policy Forum


Reuters Foundation, AlertNet

Mass Rape and Counseling
Amnesty International

Human Rights Watch

IRIN News, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs


Current Situation

Committee on Conscience

Human Rights Watch

Monitor the Situation in Other Countries
In addition to the tragic events in the DRC, there are other countries where civilians are threatened with mass violence and genocide. You may want your students to create a News Watch Journal that focuses on one of the following regions:

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