NOTE: This lesson is broken up into four parts. Depending on the amount of time available for study, the lesson could be done in its entirety or Part 1 through 4 could be completed as stand-alone lessons.
Part 1: What are conflict diamonds?
1. As students enter the room, play a diamond themed song. For example: "Diamonds From Sierra Leone Remix" by Kanye West (1st Verse) [ For more information about doing this look to Extension Activity #2]
2. "Blood Diamond" is a Hollywood blockbuster starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Honsou, and Jennifer Connelley that seeks to raise public consciousness about the issue of blood, or conflict, diamonds. Ask students to divide a piece of paper into two columns. In column one, students should write down what they already know about conflict diamonds. Provide two minutes for students to record their ideas. Some students may have already seen the film and may have specific questions about the issues it raised. Provide students two minutes to write down what they would like to know about conflict diamonds.
3. Take time to discuss what students already know. Define the term "conflict diamonds" as a class, building on student ideas. Explain that conflict diamonds are diamonds mined in a war zone and sold illegally to finance the war efforts of rebel groups, resulting in prolonged conflict and increased human rights abuses.
4. Have students read the NewsHour Extra article Movie Sparks Debate over Diamond Trade (Printer-friendly PDF) Ask students to complete reading comprehension questions #1-8 (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/teachers/lessonplans/world/diamonds_12-04.html) after reading the article. Discuss the answers as a class.
5. Before "Blood Diamond" was even released, the World Diamond Council spent millions of dollars on a public relations campaign arguing that conflict diamonds are a problem of the past. The success, and thereby the price, of diamonds depend largely on their reputation, and the World Diamond Council, De Beers, and other industry leaders are worried that consumers who see the film may boycott the diamond industry.
Ask students to brainstorm how diamonds have traditionally been portrayed in American culture in magazines, advertisements, movies, songs, music videos and popular ideology.
(As an extension, view and analyze the "Diamonds in Advertising" gallery at: http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/diamonds)
After discussing how diamonds are portrayed in American culture, ask students to consider how advertising affects consumer purchasing decisions.
Part II: Diamonds and conflict
6. "Blood Diamond" focuses on the link between diamonds and conflict. Funds generated by the illegal sale of diamonds mined in conflict areas have been used to buy small arms and finance military campaigns, leading to increased human rights abuses. According to congressional reports, millions of people have been killed in diamond fueled conflict over the past decade, and 6,500,000 people in Angola, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and now Cote D'Ivoire have become refugees. 300,000 children have been forced to become child soldiers and commit horrible atrocities on behalf of rebel groups seeking to maintain control of diamond mines.
To help students gain a visual understanding of diamond fueled conflicts in Africa, point out the countries mentioned above on a map, such as the interactive map found at The Africa Guide:
7. The film "Blood Diamond", the diamond industry and the media have made the connection between diamond fueled conflict in Africa and American consumers. Exactly what is the connection? Using the From Military Engagements to Engagement PowerPoint, help students trace the path of diamonds from their creation to their eventual sale. As the film and the handout demonstrate, what consumers choose to buy does make an impact on the lives of other people, even people who live continents away.
8. Currently, diamond related violence in areas such as the DRC and Cote D'Ivoire is escalating despite international efforts. In order to help students understand why certain countries are impacted by conflict diamonds more than others have students read Student Handout One: Analyzing the Natural Resource Curse, which compares how natural resources impact Botswana and Cote D'Ivoire. Then, have students answer the questions on the handout. Discuss student responses to the handout as a class.
Part III: The diamond industry
9. Divide students into small groups. Assign each group one of the key players in the conflict diamond trade. Distribute Student Handout Two: U.N. General Assembly - Conflict Diamond Resolution. Each group will research its assigned key player and complete the activity outlined in the handout.
10. Once students have finished researching their assigned roles, ask each group's representative to assemble in a panel. Each member of the panel will explain who he or she is, how he or she affects or is affected by conflict diamonds, his or her proposed solution, and how the proposed solution will affect him or her as well as the other key players. The other students, as members of the General Assembly, will pose questions and make comments about proposed solutions. The teacher will serve as the moderator for the panel. At the end of the panel presentations the teacher should hold a general assembly vote to chose a proposed solution.
11. After the class has generated ideas for solutions, review strategies that have already been tried, beginning with the Kimberley Process. Distribute Student Handout Three: Understanding and Evaluating the Kimberley Process. Students will read the material individually. As a class, discuss ways that the Kimberley Process could be more effective.
Part IV: Taking action
12. Ask students if they feel conflict diamonds are a cause they care about. How does it rank with other issues in Africa and in the United States? If they want to take action, brainstorm productive activities. (Some ideas include: educating peers, holding a teach-in about conflict diamonds, and participating in an informal jewelry store survey to see how many jewelers can provide Kimberley Process certificates for their diamonds.)
13. Ask students how they make decisions about taking action on different causes. Does an issue have to affect them directly? Does it matter if their friends are involved in an activist organization or not? Do their parents or families have any influence?
14. Direct students to get out their preview learning sheets. Have students check to see if they were correct about what they knew about conflict diamonds and if they were able to find the answers to what they wanted to learn.
Additional Resources for Teachers:
American Radio Works - "With This Ring: Following the International Diamond Trail"
Amnesty International - Blood Diamond
Museum of Natural History - The Nature of Diamonds online exhibition
PBS Frontline World - "Sierra Leone - Gunrunners"
PBS Global Connections - "Private Profits and Public Policies"
UN Conflict Diamond Resolution
1.View the Kanye West video "Diamonds from Sierra Leone" (available online) on mute. Ask students to evaluate the message of the images in the video. Distribute lyrics to the song (edited for language). Ask students to evaluate the message of the lyrics. Compare and contrast the message of the video and the message of the lyrics. What effect do you think this song could have on consumers?
2. Diamonds are not the only resources that are exploited to fuel conflict. Timber, coltan (used to make cell phones), oil, and other natural resources are also used to prolong conflict. One resource is Amnesty International's "Blood Diamond" Curriculum Guide - Lesson 2: Natural Resource Conflicts, an in-depth lesson about the relationship between natural resource exploitation and conflict (available for download at: http://www.amnestyusa.org/education/pdf/BD_curriculumguide.pdf).
3. To help students make an even deeper personal connection to the effects of their purchasing decisions, ask them to research the origins of one thing that they use each day. Where is it produced? How is it made? What natural resources are used to manufacture, package, and transport it? What are the alternatives? As a further extension, ask students to report their findings to the class.