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Lesson Plan:

For Teachers: From Dangerous Waters

Type: Assignment
Subjects: History, Social Studies, Political Science
Grades: Grades 9-10
Duration: 1 to 2 lessons
Purpose: To identify and understand the compensation provided to civilian merchant sailors during the Second World War
Summary: Students write and perform skits detailing inequitable responses to similar challenges.

Before Exploring

Ask students to discuss experiences with unfair treatment, for example, when an item has been unfairly distributed or participation in an activity has been limited (for example, a limited number of spots available for a field trip). Ask: How did you feel when you were in some way left out? Did you do something to try to get included?

Divide the class into groups and have each group create and perform a skit in which one character is given a reward and another is not, despite near-identical responses to a challenge or situation. Have students discuss the skits.

Outline the Opportunity

Direct students to Continuing the Fight: Canada's Veterans on the CBC Digital Archives website. Have students review the clips titled "Merchant mariners denied recognition", "Merchant seamen stage hunger strike...", "$50 million for merchant mariners", "Unsung heroes of the sea," "Merchant mariners win benefits and status," "Merchant mariners stage second hunger strike," and "Additional benefits awarded to merchant mariners and families."

They should take notes to describe the actions, thoughts, and feelings of a merchant mariner.

Individually or in pairs, students will write a wartime radio news report that details the experiences of a merchant mariner during a night attack on a convoy by a wolf pack of U-boats. They should write in the voice of a wartime news reporter conveying some sense of the terror of the evening and/or recounting an act of bravery by a merchant mariner. Remind them to answer the 5 W plus H questions. Students share their reports with the class.

Revisit and Reflect

After the performances, ask: What is your view of how the merchant mariners acted? What compensation do you think they deserved? What is your view on the quality and timing of compensation to merchant mariners by the Canadian government?


Students can reflect in their journals about their opinion of a merchant mariner, and what kind of person one would need to be to take on such a role. They may also want to reflect on how they would feel as a member of the merchant marines who has just been told he or she is going to war.