Teaching dark periods of history can be really challenging. You don’t want to scare your kids with too much information, nor do you want to paint them an incomplete picture. Equally, knowing the ins and outs of complicated events can be very difficult on an emotional level for children.
In this article, we’ll be sharing how you can teach Hiroshima, the Holocaust, and African-American slavery to your children in a full, yet accessible and engaging way.
How to explain Hiroshima to your kids
On August 6th, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Around 150,000 people died, and it was the first time a nuclear weapon had been used at war.
Teaching your kids about Hiroshima isn’t easy. You’ve got to balance the political facts with sensitivity to the tragedy of the event.
1. Start with the geography of Hiroshima
Japan is likely to feel a million miles away from your children’s lives, so it helps to first bridge that gap and teach your kids about where Hiroshima actually is. Look at globes, atlases, and maps to help your children understand that Hiroshima is a city just like any other.
2. Next, demonstrate the destruction caused by the atomic bomb
It’s hard to put into words the impact of the atomic bomb. Over five square miles of Hiroshima were impacted, and up to 92% of its buildings were either completely destroyed or damaged.
To help your kids visualize the extent of this, get creative and try and demonstrate the mass destruction Hiroshima fell victim to.
A great idea is to ask your kids to create a large map of the city, pinpoint one particular location, and drop an egg on that specific point. The ‘fallout’ will show your children just how devastating the atomic bomb was for Hiroshima.
3. And finally, introduce the facts
To cover the basics of Hiroshima, your children will need to know that:
- The atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945.
- It was dropped by the US to force Japan to surrender in WW2.
- The bomb instantly killed 80,000 people, whilst 60,000 died a year later from radiation exposure.
- The atomic bomb was the first nuclear weapon used in war.
- After the bomb was dropped, Japan surrendered on August 15th, marking the end of WW2.
- Nuclear weapons have never been used in war since.
To break this down in more detail, our worksheet bundles will do the trick:
- First, our 20-page Hiroshima worksheet package covers important facts about WW2, The Manhattan Project, and how the attack led to Japan’s eventual surrender.
- And to provide more scientific insight into the events of Hiroshima, our atomic bomb worksheets will guide your children through an interactive explanation of the science behind nuclear weaponry.
- To help your students understand the context of why the US chose to use nuclear weapons on Japan, help them explore WWII, the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the War in the Pacific.
How to explain the Holocaust to your kids
The Holocaust was the state-sponsored mass killings of Jewish people, as ordered by the Nazi Party in the 1940s. Over six million Jews and other minorities were killed, and only those who managed to escape, or sent to concentration camps at the end of the war were able to survive.
As one of history’s cruelest events, teaching young children about the Holocaust will be challenging. The atrocities of Nazi Germany can be very scary for children, whilst the history is very complex.
1. That’s why it helps to start with the facts…
As an introduction to the Holocaust, your children will need to know that:
- The Nazis ordered a boycott of all Jewish owned businesses on April 1st, 1933.
- The Holocaust followed soon after, with the mission of ‘eliminating’ all Jews.
- Jewish people were kidnapped and kept in concentration camps where they were starved, enslaved, abused, and eventually killed.
- Over 6 million Jews were killed.
- Common methods of murder included gas chambers and gunshots.
- The Holocaust ended on May 8th, 1945, soon after Hitler’s death and Germany’s surrender.
To cover these in more detail, download our 24 page Holocaust worksheet bundle, and guide your kids through activities and factfiles on WW2, Jews, Hitler, his treatment of Jewish people, and how that changed international law forever.
2. Next, introduce your kids to Anne Frank
Anne Frank’s famous diary, detailing how the teenager and her Jewish family hid from the Nazis, is a great (and albeit very sad) way of introducing your children to a lived experience of the Holocaust.
You could read excerpts of the diary itself, or purchase a more accessible, child-friendly version of the book to improve your children’s understanding of the tragedy.
How to explain slavery to your kids
Let’s end on how to teach one of the most grievous parts of human history — and that’s the enslaving of African Americans between 1619-1865.
Your kids are likely to be familiar with anti-racism movements, but they might not know the roots of racial inequality, which is why teaching the history of slavery is so important.
1. First, introduce the topic of black inequality
Before talking about slavery, it’s important to make sure that your kids understand the prejudices faced by black people.
Talk to your children about current topics like Black Lives Matter, and explain to them that people of color can still be treated unfairly today.
You could also speak to them about their favorite black celebrities, like Barack Obama, Serena Williams, or Oprah Winfrey, and explain that they had to overcome great historic obstacles to achieve such huge success.
From there, open up the fact that this is deeply rooted in America’s history.
2. Then, unpack the facts…
- The first African slaves arrived in the 1600s to serve British colonies.
- Slaves worked on plantations of sugar, tobacco, and corn.
- Some slaves were also house servants for their ‘masters’.
- By the 18th century, ‘owning slaves’ was a symbol of status.
- In 1793, the cotton gin led to a huge demand for more slaves.
- In 1808, Congress banned the importation of slaves from Africa (the local population was large enough to sustain the demand).
- In 1849, Harriet Tubman escapes from slavery.
- In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe published “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, which shone a light on the harrowing treatment of slaves.
- In 1857, the Dred Scot Decision declared that African Americans, whether slaves or free, were not US citizens.
- In 1863, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, leading to the 13th Amendment in 1865, which abolishes slavery in the USA.
This, of course, is an extremely top-level look at slavery and black history — but it does provide a good foundation to build from.
To do that building, download our in-depth worksheet bundles on this topic:
- The slavery bundle: a complete, 11-page package delving into the plantation system, the origin of slavery in American, and how it was ultimately ended.
- The black history bundle: 27 worksheets that provide challenging and thought-provoking activities about America’s black history, right from the 17th century to today.
Together, they’ll be great at educating your children about arguably the darkest part of American history — a part that is fundamental to a child’s ability to understand why equality is so essential.
Link/cite this page
If you reference any of the content on this page on your own website, please use the code below to cite this page as the original source.
Link will appear as How To Teach Dark Periods Of History — 7 Ways To Explain Hiroshima, The Holocaust, and Slavery To Your Kids: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, August 14, 2020