If the world were a classroom . . .
Type of activity: A simulation exercise that allows groups to “take on” the identity of a person very different from themselves. This exercise—which can be done before or after visiting the exhibit—helps groups understand some of the factors that make up the REAL. LIFE. situations their peers in other parts of the world face every day.
Adapt this lesson plan for use in public schools, Christian schools, other private schools, homeschools and other groups
Sources: This exercise is based on the book If the World Were a Village, by David Smith, who based his statistics on "State of the Village Report" by Donella Meadows, first published in 1990. An electronic adaptation of the book, Miniature Earth, can also be useful. Some of the statistics vary from Smith’s book.
Premises: The premise in the book and website is that if we reduced the world’s population to 100 people—the size of a small village—we can understand in a microcosm who the world’s people are. We would feel closer to them because they are part of our village.
The premise of this exercise is to reduce the statistics to your classroom or group: If the world were your classroom or group....
Examine the statistics listed below, selected from the If the World Were a Village (2002).
REAL. LIFE. for people in our world
- Access to food
26 people are severely undernourished.
34 people are always hungry.
16 other people often go to bed hungry.
24 people always have enough to eat.
- Access to safe water
40 have no clean, safe water to drink.
60 have access to safe water.
- Access to sanitation
40 have no access to sanitation.
60 have access to sanitation.
- Access to money
20 people have more than $9000/year.
30 people have more than $750/year but less than $9000.
50 live on less than $2/day; of those, 20 have less than $1/day.
Based on the number of people in your classroom or group, calculate the statistics. (You can do the math yourself, or have the calculations be part of the assignment.)
For each item, create slips of paper with the “identities” on them. For example, if you have 30 people, the “Food access identity” statistics would be this:
- 8 people are severely undernourished.
- 10 people are always hungry.
- 5 people often go to bed hungry.
- 7 people always have enough to eat.
Pass out eight slips of paper that say “Access to food: I am severely undernourished”; 10 that say, “Access to food: I am always hungry”; five that say, “Access to food: I often go to bed hungry”; and seven that say, “Access to food: I always have enough to eat.”
Repeat the exercise for the other access statistics. In the end, each person will have four slips of paper, each with an access statistic that forms his or her “identity” in each area. (Note that because the slips are handed out at random, people may end up with statements that contradict each other. For example, one person might have a food access identity that says, “I am severely undernourished” and a money-access identity that says, “ I have more than $9000 a year.”)
Have the students "become" the person described by their access statistics for several days, or even a week. in small groups, have them tell others "who" they are and how that changes their lives. How will they treat each other, based on "who" they are?
Remind your group that:
If they have food in their refrigerators, clothes on their backs, a roof over their heads, and a place to sleep, they are richer than 75% of the people in our world.
If they have money in the bank, money in their purse or wallet, spare change somewhere around their house, then they are among the richest 8% of the world’s population.
If they can speak and act according to their faith and their conscience without harassment, imprisonment, torture or death, then they have more freedom than nearly half of the world.
Related journal-writing questions:
- What were your identities?
- How did they make you feel?
- What would it be like if any of these identities were REAL. LIFE. for you?
- What can you do on behalf of people for whom these identities are REAL. LIFE.?