tanzania: hero rats

FEATURED LESSON PLAN: Addressing the Problem of Land Mines



In this lesson, the class will examine the worldwide land mine problem and watch a video that shows an innovative way to help clear land in Africa of these explosive devices. Students will then evaluate how well the U.S. policy on land mines addresses land mine issues. For more background information on Tanzania, Mozambique, land mines, U.S. Landmine Policy, and the Hero Rats organization, please see this lesson’s Related Resources.


Subject Area:

Social Studies, Geography, Global Studies, World History


Grade Level:

Grades 6-12



    The student will:
  • Identify areas of the world where land mines pose the biggest threat
  • Describe how land mines affect people’s lives long after military conflicts have ended
  • Examine an innovative strategy for using rats to detect land mines
  • Analyze U.S. policy on land mines and assess whether it sufficiently addresses the world’s land mine problem


Estimated Time Needed:

One 50-minute class period


Materials Needed:

  • Internet access and equipment to show the class an online video clip and to conduct research
  • The FRONTLINE/World film Tanzania: Hero Rats (length: 11:12)
  • Map showing the location of Tanzania and Mozambique




  • Ask students to imagine that the land around their school contains land mines left over from a past military conflict. No one knows how many there are or where they are buried. Now and then, students are killed or lose legs in land mine explosions. Discuss how that situation would change the way they live their lives.
  • Display the FRONTLINE/World interactive map, Land Mines: An Enduring Danger. Have students identify the areas of the world where land mines pose the biggest threat. Drawing from prior knowledge, what specific conflicts brought about the use of land mines in these areas? How do these land mines continue to affect people long after wars end?
  • Show students where Tanzania and Mozambique are on a map. Tell the class that a Belgian man working in Tanzania, Bart Weetjens, has come up with a novel way to address the issue of clearing minefields in that area of the world. Then show them Tanzania: Hero Rats (length: 11:12). Focus student viewing by asking them to take notes on what makes his strategy so effective.
  • After the video, tell students that Weetjens’ organization, APOPO, has returned more than 1 million square meters of land to local populations after clearing it of mines. Discuss the impact that cleared land could have on a community’s economy and overall quality of life.
  • Ask the class to evaluate the position of the U.S. government on land mines by having student pairs analyze the U.S. State Department fact sheet U.S. Landmine Policy, judge whether this policy sufficiently addresses the world’s land mine problem, and explain their reasoning.



This teacher’s guide was written by Cari Ladd.


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