Taken from the VOW Project by James Michael and Charlie Wine.
James Michael Wine and his brother, Charlie, suggest using the arts to think about hands:
"The hand is our connecting tool, to each other, to the world we grasp..."
- Ask students to think about all the good things that hands make such as music and paintings.
- Discuss the song "Join Hands" (downloadable from the site) and analyze its lyrics. Talk about other music in which hands are a central image: "I wanna hold your hand;" "Hold My Hand."
- Get students to write down their thoughts as they listen to "Join Hands." Ask students to write a new verse for the "Join Hands" song.
- Is it an oxymoron to juxtapose "hand" and "gun?" See their graphic that splits those words apart.
Social Studies Projects
- Ask students to research gun violence in the US compared to that of other countries. Compile statistics for gun violence affecting young people under age 19.
- Have a class debate on the 2nd Amendment.
- Ask them to keep a log of incidents of violence seen by them: in the news, in movies, on television, in life. Are there patterns to this violence? How often are guns involved?
- Students might bring in news stories about an act of violence that affected one life or the life of a whole nation. (Political assassinations come to mind: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, JFK, etc. And there are thousands upon thousands of private stories.)
- Have a class brainstorming session in which each student generates 10 suggestions for reducing and avoiding violence. Discuss the lists.
- Create a message of nonviolence and "market" it as if it were an ad. The Wine brothers suggest: "It can be serious, it can be cool. It must be effective." Figure out how to spread this message in your school.
- Hand out a survey one month after your message goes up to see how effective it has been. Remember that it takes repeat exposure to have a message take root.
- Invite students to bring in a story, poem, song, or film that says something about violence. Have a student lead the discussion.
- Compare Romeo and Juliet with West Side Story. Rewrite the endings so that violence is avoided.
- Talk about the Anton Chekhov quote: "If a gun is on the mantle in the first act, it must go off in the third." Make societal comparisons.
- Talk about dreams, using Langston Hughes's poem, "Harlem." ("What happens to a dream deferred?")
- Refer to Bobby Kennedy's use of the George Bernard Shaw quote: "Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?
- Talk about Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech, and have students write their own.
Lead-ins to the saying and/or signing of the Pledge - discussion with students
- What does it mean to go "on the record?" What does a vow or pledge mean to you? What does it mean to take a stand? Is it hard? Is it important?
- [Is "giving your word" and keeping it a matter of honor to you? Does having friends who keep their word mean something to you?]
- What kinds of vows or promises have you made?
- What kinds of vows and commitments do people make to each other?
- What are some examples of famous historical vows or pledges? The VOW Project gives Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce as an example: "I will fight no more forever." [You might also quote the last line from the Declaration of Independence: "With firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor." How important was it to our development as a country for the signers of the Declaration to be able to count on each other's word?]
- The VOW Project suggests the quote from JFK's inaugural address as a fitting lead-in to the Pledge: "This much we pledge and more ... In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than in mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course." (1961)
I am deeply indebted to the Wine brothers, Jim and Charlie, for their creativity, their spirit of collaboration and partnership, and their wish to weave the Pledge into their work to reduce violence. All of the above ideas are from their lessons@iVOW.net unless otherwise indicated. Some of MLG's suggestions are included in [brackets].
Mary Lewis Grow, National Coordinator