The Crisis in Ukraine

Resources for a Discussion and Activities with Secondary School Children 

1. Talking to young people about war: 

One of the core aims of the Welsh Curriculum is to support young people in becoming ‘ethical, informed citizens of Wales and the world.’  Having said that, how do we approach sensitive and distressing topics like war, in particular when it’s a conflict like the Ukranian crisis that’s unfolding daily via the media?   

Young people will be well aware of the conflict both through the media and through hearing adults talking about it.  By discussing it with them, we can support them in being informed, in asking critical questions and trying to make sense of what is happening.  We can also support them as active citizens in being part of initiatives to help those affected by the conflict. 

Here are some suggestions as to how schools can introduce the topic of the war in Ukraine. These can be adapted or added to as feels appropriate. 

2. Explaining the conflict in an age-appropriate way: 

The first task, perhaps, is to explain the situation to young people in a way that’s relevant to them.  One way of doing this is to draw parallels with situations they may be familiar with.  The framework of gang culture is used in the example below.  Please use or adapt this as you see fit.  The text can be used with visuals such as a world map to show where the Ukraine and NATO countries are.  Some questions are suggested below to support young people in exploring matters further.   

“In the town of Neuwold there are two rival gangs, the Noy Boys (NATO) and the Ru Crew (RUSSIA).  There has been peace between the two since the last major fight (WWII), with gang members exchanging things the others wanted (TRADE) – also customs and ways of doing things (CULTURE).   

Increasingly things have been getting more tense.  The Noy Boys have expanded considerably, and moved towards the Ru Crew’s territory, giving new members knives and guns (MILITARY HARDWARE AND WEAPONS) which they can use to defend themselves and one another against any external rival gang.  The Noy Boys also pride themselves on letting gang members express their opinions and have a say in the way things are run (DEMOCRACY) and have been openly critical of the way the Ru Crew organise their gang. 

The Ru Crew feel threatened by the constant criticism of the Noy Boys and by them supplying knives and guns (WEAPONS) to new members (EASTERN EUROPEAN STATES), some of which used to be part of the Ru Crew.  They run their gang on an authoritarian system where it can be difficult for people to voice different opinions.  The leaders of the gang feel this works for them and want to re-assert their authority in the face of the Noy Boys’ expansion. 

Some members of the Noy Boys also belong to the E-Club (EUROPEAN UNION).  There have been good relations between the E-Club and the Ru Crew in the past, with both sides relying on one another to exchange things they need (TRADE).  However, since 2014 the E-Club have been increasingly critical of the authoritarian way the Ru Crew act and try to win back parts of the town to their sphere of influence by taking them over (e.g. ANNEXATION OF THE CRIMEA). Relations have cooled and are even antagonistic. 

The problem has escalated because the U-team (UKRAINE) which used to be part of the Ru Crew has become independent and it’s looking increasingly likely that they’d like to join the E-club and even the Noy Boys.  The Ru Crew see this as a direct threat, because the U-team borders right onto their territory.  They also see the U-team as still part of their gang and want to have them back – partly to push back against the Noy Boys and show that they are strong and a force to be reckoned with in Neuwold. 

The Ru Crew first of all threatened the U-team and have now crossed over into their territory and are using knives, guns and rockets to try to force them back into their gang.  This is breaking gang rules (INTERNATIONAL LAW) and everyone in Neuwold is shocked and disgusted that this is happening. They have all told the Ru Crew off and stuck up for the U-team by refusing to accept goods coming from the Ru Crew (SANCTIONS) until they stop using force.  The hope is that this will stop the Ru Crew from buying more knives, guns and rockets. The Ru Crew has also been heavily criticised by the Town Council (UN), the highest authority in Neuwold.   

The Noy Boys can’t help the U-team fight the Ru Crew directly because they are not a member of their gang, and the Noy Boys’ agreement to defend / fight for one another only applies to members of the gang.  Doing so would almost certainly mean that the fight would get worse, and that it might escalate into another major fight (WWIII) 

The Noy Boys have, however, given the U-team lots of their own knives, guns and rockets to fight the Ru Crew, because this is not breaking their gang rules. 

For now, other villages and towns (COUNTRIES) can only really stand on the edge and watch and give moral support to the U-team, including welcoming kids who are in danger of getting hurt (REFUGEES) and making sure that they are warm, safe and have enough to keep them going (FOOD and SHELTER).  

Everyone wants the fight to stop, and some kids have tried to encourage all sides to talk so that nobody else gets hurt and so that Neuwold can be safe for everyone.” 

3. Understanding the context: 

In order to really understand what’s going on in the Ukraine at the moment, we need to understand the historical background as seen from different perspectives.  Divide into smaller groups and look at the following articles: 

History of Ukraine – 

A Brief History of Ukraine – Local Histories 

Modern history of Ukraine – Wikipedia 

An Historian Explains Ukraine and Russia’s Complex Relationship | HowStuffWorks 


Description automatically generated

Some questions to discuss: 

  • Who’s writing this account?  Do they have an agenda? 
  • What is being said?  What may be being left out?  Where does the truth lie? 
  • How does the history explain and illuminate what is happening today and attitudes and opinions on both sides? 

4. Some questions to consider: 

  • What do you think is the root cause of the war? 

Power and influence? 



Different ideologies (authoritarianism v libertarianism / democracy; socialism v capitalism….) 

All of the above….? 

  • What do you think is effective in stopping bullying happening or in intervening when two people or groups of people come into conflict with one another? 

Is the answer different when we are talking about countries rather than individuals?  If so, how? 

  • Do the following things make the situation BETTER or WORSE, in your opinion? 
  1. Supplying arms to one side or the other (often seen as the answer, but the danger is that this escalates the violence, and that more and more people get hurt) 
  1. Punishing the aggressor by imposing sanctions or boycotting goods (could be effective, but could make the bully’s gang believe even more that the other side is ‘against them’) 
  1. Civil disobedience – lots of people in the Ukraine and Russia disrupting the invasion in creative ways and protesting against the war (takes a lot of courage, but might mean that the scales could be tipped against the bully….) 
  1. Calling for a ceasefire and using diplomacy (especially by a neutral country or the UN) to get the two sides to talk until they come to an agreement. 
  • What do you see as the role of the following in the current situation? 
  1. Propaganda / control of information 
  1. The UN 
  1. The EU (see this article as an introduction) 
  1. The Minsk Agreement 
  1. Possible mediators (Turkey, France…..) 
  1. Nuclear weapons….. 
  • Is there a role for peace activism, civil disobedience and conscientious objection in a time of war? 

See some examples of these in the articles below.  Divide into groups to read these and come back to discuss your thoughts: 

Ukrainians Are Nonviolently Resisting War  

Yurii Sheliazhenko on Democracy Now from Kyiv  

Ukraine’s Secret Weapon May Prove to be Civilian Resistance  

Russians Speak Up Against War  

(It’s worth remembering that the right to conscientious objection to military service is enshrined in International Law

5. Activities: 

  • Find out where the Ukraine is on a world map.  What can you find out about the country – for instance about its history, language and culture? (See also section 3 above) 
  • What about Russia?  What can you find out about it?  What is its recent history and what do you think has led its current leader to behave in the way he is? 
  • Look at a map of NATO countries.  Does this suggest any problems to you? What strikes you about the position of the Ukraine on this map? 

6. What can we do? 

  • We can show solidarity with the Ukraine.  Many buildings are being lit up in the colours of the Ukranian flag or are flying the Ukranian flag.  What could your school do? 
  • We can raise money to support people fleeing the conflict (refugees).  The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) has set up a humanitarian appeal for Ukraine.  Your school could also raise money through other charities such as Save the Children or Unicef.  See suggestions here: 
  • Write to your local Senedd Member or local Member of Parliament to insist that Wales / the UK welcomes as many refugees from the Ukraine as possible. 
  • Hold an Assembly to hold the people of Ukraine (and ordinary people in Russia) in your thoughts and prayers.  
  • What about becoming a Peace School?  This scheme gives you access to free resources and training and supports you in embedding peace into your school ethos and across the curriculum.  For further information contact  
  • Learn how to relate to others positively and non-violently by running ‘Facing up to Conflict’ workshops in your school.  They are interactive and fun!  For further information, contact  

For further information about events in the Ukraine, including Wales’ historical links to that country and ideas about what you can do go to:  

A picture containing text, clipart

Description automatically generated
Shape, rectangle

Description automatically generated