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Links for Learners

by Lynn and Bob Gillen

June 1999

The following Links for Learners resource is offered to those who would like to use St. Anthony Messenger in an educational setting or for further study at home. This resource is prepared with high school students in mind, but can be adapted for other age groups. We will feature one article for further study each month. Back issues, beginning in May 1997, contain this resource. Up until December 1998 it was called a teacher's guide or classroom resource. Teachers with access to computer labs should encourage students to access the article directly online. Students have our permission to print out a copy of the article for classroom use. We encourage you to subscribe to the print edition of St. Anthony Messenger, where you will see all of the graphics, and more articles that you might find useful on a variety of topics. Please let us know how we can improve this service by sending feedback to

Please see our links disclaimer located at the end of this document.

Links for Learning

1. Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and Students

This month’s Link for Learners will support high school curriculum in:

    • Religion — Christian life-styles; service
    • Social Studies — current events
    • Science — radioactivity; weather patterns
    1. Finding Links for Discussion Group Leaders and Participants

Look for connections for use in programs such as:

Parish sacramental preparation programs and CCD classes; seasonal discussion groups; RCIA programs.

Parents will also find some of this material useful in initiating discussion around the dinner table, in home study or at family activities.

Understanding Basic Terms in This Month’s Article

Look for these key words and terms as you read the article. Definitions or explanations can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource materials cited throughout the Link for Learners.

Chernobyl region


Nuclear power plant

Radioactive particles


Outreach program


Thyroid cancer


Nuclear radiation



What Happened at Chernobyl?

The nuclear meltdown at the Chernobyl power plant and the subsequent radioactive fallout stand as a tragedy of epic proportions. Read this month’s article first for a sense of the enormity of the accident. Make notes and then share thoughts on the article with your class or group to ensure a general understanding of just what happened in Chernobyl in 1986.

Review news sources to research the background to the accident. (At the end of every Links for Learners, you’ll find an extensive list of general news sources.) An Internet search in the Yahoo search engine under "Chernobyl" will provide a number of leads. Visit the Soviet Archives Exhibit of the United States Library of Congress, where the Chernobyl accident is described as one of the greatest industrial accidents of all time. See the print resources listed at the end of this Links for several additional research sources.

Research the causes of the accident. You’ll find links to related sites as well. The accident resulted in:

  • 20,000,000 people exposed to high levels of radiation
  • 5,000 immediate or direct deaths
  • 300,000 more projected deaths
  • 800,000 children at risk for leukemia

Find a map of the region, either in your library or online. Make a photocopy so that you can draw on it, or make a transparency and project the map onto a screen. Mark the site of the nuclear power plant and the neighboring cities and towns mentioned in the article. Draw several circles around the power plant, one with a radius of perhaps five to 10 miles from the center, another further out at about 70 miles.

With colored markers, shade the population centers within the circles. The author tells us that everything within a 70-mile radius of the Chernobyl blast site was contaminated with radiation — and continues so even today. Reference maps will give you the areas of major contamination as well as the path of the radioactive clouds disbursed from the blast. A Belarus Web site will also provide maps and further reference data.

Compare the Chernobyl map to a map of your own city or region. See, where you can subscribe to an educational map service or buy individual maps online. Photocopy a map of your area, then draw circles with the same radii and see how the population centers compare to those of the Chernobyl region. Can you get a sense of how enormous the results of the tragedy are when you compare it to your own geography?

Why Do the Children Suffer?

Children are so often the unintended but very real victims of war, disaster, violence and ignorance in our world. The children of the Chernobyl region were, and continue to be, deeply affected by the nuclear blast there. Touching, indeed tragic, letters from the children make the accident’s effects real for those of us who live elsewhere in the world. These letters are published online by Index for Censorship, an online magazine promoting freedom of speech. Chernobyl’s Children’s Project: Cork, Ireland (a registered charity) is another site for letters, paintings, poems, photos and video clips about the children who suffer in Chernobyl. (Be aware that some of the photos might be disturbing.)

 Can you find parallels in history and current events to what happened to the children at Chernobyl? Princess Diana was well known for her efforts to help the victims of land mines in Africa and other countries. Many were children. In the United States, the Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation leads the U.S. Campaign to Ban Land mines.

In 1995, Craig Kielburger founded Free the Children when he was just 13. Free the Children was started to end child labor in Pakistan, but has since expanded its reach. You can read about the many projects of the organization and how Craig started it on their Web site.

The war in Vietnam made victims of countless children. So have so many other world conflicts: Kosovo, Afghanistan, Northern Ireland. America’s own Civil War made orphans and victims of so many children. The book Reluctant Witnesses: Children’s Voices From the Civil War contains letters from these children.

Teens Spearhead Efforts to Help the Children of Chernobyl

Ireland initiated outreach efforts back in 1990 to aid the children of Chernobyl. Now the United States and Europe have followed Ireland’s lead in sponsoring outreach programs to offer these children a respite from their suffering and isolation.

The Irish effort began with ideas presented by teenagers exploring youth ministry projects. Look for parallels to the efforts to heal the children of Chernobyl. Teens can be proud to show that they have initiated peace efforts, charitable activities and service projects in a variety of places and situations on the local, national and international scene.

The Los Angeles Times recently reported (April 19, 1999) that in the midst of the recent hostilities and atrocities in Yugoslavia, teens in the city of Pristina established a peace house where Serbian and ethnic Albanian teenagers could sit to share their interest in peace. Participants overcame their differences and created a common bond strengthened by music and talk. Ironically, the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia has put at least a temporary end to their efforts.

The Greenpeace organization includes among its many environmental concerns efforts to inform the public on nuclear hazards. "Pathways to Destruction" on its Web site will lead you to research information on Chernobyl. Reading through the site may offer you ideas on how teens can be a force toward peace and service for the children of the world.

Your reading and research will give you a base of information to share in your classroom or group. Brainstorm, then, for ideas on how you can initiate actions toward healing and service in your own locale. For example, child labor is a practice in a number of world countries. How can you be sure that the athletic shoes you wear, or the coffee you drink, are produced without unfair child labor practices? Organizations such as Sweatshop Watch and Co-op America monitor sweatshop activities throughout the world. You can join their organizations, raise money to support their cause or find ways to take action. Find out what companies require a code of conduct with their suppliers when they sign a purchase order.


Print Resources About This Topic

Echoes of a Native Land: Two Centuries of a Russian Village, Serge Schmemann, Vintage Books, New York, 1997. The author, once the New York Times bureau chief in Moscow, reconstructs his family’s Russian heritage and history.

The Legacy of Chernobyl, Zhores Medvedev, WW Norton, New York, 1990. A thorough account of what happened at Chernobyl, written by one of the scientists involved with the situation.

Reluctant Witnesses: Children’s Voices from the Civil War, Emmy E. Werner, Westview Press, Colorado, 1998. Parallel to Chernobyl, another account of how children suffered in a major historical event.



Further Resources

Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site's archives. - The New York Times - The Los Angeles Times - Time magazine - CNN - MSNBC - This site will take you to a number of online publications. - The Associated Press - The Chicago Tribune - People magazine The Washington Post The History Channel - The Miami Herald - The Close Up Foundation - ABC News - Channel One's online resource

Links Disclaimer:

The links contained within this resource guide are functional at the time the page is posted. Over time, however, some of the links may become ineffective.

These links are provided solely as a convenience to you and not as an endorsement by St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications of the contents on such third-party Web sites. St. Anthony Messenger Press/Franciscan Communications is not responsible for the content of linked third-party sites and does not make any representations regarding the content or accuracy of materials on such third-party Web sites. If you decide to access linked third-party Web sites, you do so at your own risk.

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