Kids selling Tanks – now THAT’s project-based learning
by Alec Patton
Yesterday I saw the comedian Mark Thomas at the Brockwell Park Green Fair, and he mentioned a project he’d helped run at Lord William’s School in Oxfordshire, with student members of the Amnesty International chapter there.
Working once a week during their lunch, the students set up an arms dealership, “Williams Defence”, they brokered the sale of thumb cuffs and a ‘sting stick’ (basically a spiked club). Then they went on a field trip to Northern Ireland (where you don’t need a license to broker small arms deals) and, calling arms dealers on their mobiles, they got quotes for the following:
grenade launchers from Pakistan to be sent to Syria ($421), MP5 sub-machine guns to go from Turkey to Mali (750) and pump-action shotguns to go from South Africa to Israeli settlers in Hebron.
Apparently, “The dealer in South Africa said he couldn’t get a licence to get the guns to Israel but he could send them to a firm in Switzerland or Greece which would do the deal from there.” Ultimately, the students presented their findings to the parliamentary select committee responsible for overseeing the arms trade. As Thomas writes, “I can think of no finer act of citizenship than school students exposing the UK government’s failures to control the arms trade.”
In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that this all took place under the auspices of Channel 4’s Dispatches, so it wasn’t completely DIY. And I’m presenting it more as an inspiring example, than as a scaleable innovation.
You can read Mark Thomas’s piece about it in the New Statesman here