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No Nukes in the Pacific: Making Yourself Heard

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Writer: Trevor Sharp
Year: 9 - 10
Level: 4
Duration: 6 - 8 lessons

The students will use the Te Papa digital resource 'No nukes in the Pacific' poster by Pam Debenham to examine the issues, rights and responsibilities surrounding civil protest. Focus will be on protest as it has affected New Zealanders in our recent history. They will use drama to create a fictitious situation, where citizens need to band together to protect their rights, and they will explore how this might be done.

ID 45711: 'No nukes in the pacific' poster, 1984

This is a screen printed poster created in 1984 by the Australian printmaker Pam Debenham. A cropped figure wearing a brightly coloured shirt stands in front of an orange and black sea, above which appear the words 'NO NUKES IN THE PACIFIC'. The shirt is patterned with coconut palms on atolls, interspersed with nuclear clouds and the names of atolls where testing has occurred, including 'Marshall Is', 'Bikini' and 'Moruroa Atoll'. Yachts are sailing between the islands and atolls. Across the bottom of the poster are the words: 'FOR A NUCLEAR FREE AND INDEPENDENT PACIFIC'. At the foot, to the left, is the name 'TIN SHEDS' and a series of numbers; to the right is the copyright symbol and the artist's name. The poster measures 87.9 cm x 62.0 cm

Source Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

Educational Value

'No nukes in the Pacific' is a protest poster against nuclear testing in the Pacific. Pam Debenham (1955-) stated that it was a response to her concern during the 1980s about the build-up of arms by the superpowers and the 'continued nuclear blasts in the Pacific'. The poster was made in the last quarter of the 20th century, a period of protest, agitation and pressure for change over a wide range of issues, including indigenous issues, equality for women, racial discrimination, foreign policy, gay rights, war and nuclear weapons. The images of nuclear mushroom clouds highlight the issue of nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific. Between 1945 and 1992 the French, British, and US governments conducted around 1,300 official nuclear tests that have led to environmental damage, forced evacuations of indigenous peoples, and have caused long-term health issues for those exposed to the fallout. The poster is a product of a peace movement that became aligned with the anti-nuclear movement. The boat on the shirt has a peace symbol on its sail; the peace movement opposed nuclear testing in the Pacific and visits by nuclear-armed and powered ships. The anti-nuclear movement led, in 1985, to the then New Zealand Prime Minister, David Lange's, outlawing visits by nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed vessels and declaring NZ to be nuclear-free - a position it still holds today. In the same year, Prime Minister Lange won the argument for an anti-nuclear world at the Oxford Union Debate. 'No nukes in the Pacific' was produced a year before the bombing in 1985 of the Greenpeace ship, 'Rainbow Warrior', in Auckland Harbour. The 'Rainbow Warrior' was preparing to make a protest voyage to the French nuclear test site at Moruroa Atoll. As a result of the bombing, one of the crew, photographer Fernando Pereira, died and the ship was sunk. The French Government paid compensation to New Zealand of NZ$13 million, admitting that it had ordered the bombing.


Respect: The students will explore respect for others' opinions and others' rights. They will encounter issues around equity and integrity in both fictional dramatic and historical contexts.Inquiry and Curiosity: The students will explore motivations for the actions of others and how we might be more sensitive to what is happening around us.

Key Competencies

Thinking: The students will explore forming and holding opinions as well as examining analogies between a vicariously experienced fictional situation and historical events. They will need to respond in role to unexpected challenges and situations.

Using language, symbols and texts: The students will practise interpreting visual image on a literal and metaphorical level, and improve their skills in creating and reading tableaux.

Managing self: The students will learn how to manage themselves and set high standards in devising and refining dramas in group situations. They will need to develop strategies for solving problems and the skill of knowing when to lead and when to follow.

Relating to others: The students will interact with others in developing and performing fictional roles dissimilar to those they usually adopt. They will work extensively in ensemble situations to create drama.

Participating and contributing: The students will participate in a number of role plays where the success of the activity depends on the quality of their contribution. They will also participate in a range of group-based drama activities.

Cross Curriculum Links

English, Social Studies, Visual Arts

Achievement Objectives: Level 4

The students will:

Understanding the Arts in Context (UC)

Investigate the functions, purposes, and technologies of drama in cultural and historical contexts.

Developing Practical Knowledge (PK)

Select and use techniques and relevant technologies to develop drama practice. Use conventions to structure drama.

Developing Ideas (DI)

Initiate and refine ideas with others to plan and develop drama.

Communicating and Interpreting (CI)

Present and respond to drama, identifying ways in which elements, techniques, conventions, and technologies create meaning in their own and others' work.

Specific Learning Outcomes

The student can:

  • Select and use techniques suitable to develop a particular role.
  • Devise and perform a drama within specific limitations, using prescribed conventions.
  • Maintain a role and write a response to the in-role discussion.
  • Provide relevant feedback to other students' work identifying ways in which techniques and conventions create meaning.
  • Participate appropriately in the planning and development process of a group drama.


  • 1 set of Resource A (Cards with descriptions of three New Zealand issues and examples of different opinions about them) preferably laminated.
  • 1 copy of Resource B (Te Papa digital resource - ID 45711 "No nukes in the Pacific", 1984 by Pam Debenham) to be projected on Datashow or OHP or 7 - 10 copies to be shared among groups.
  • 7 - 10 copies of Resource C - one copy for each group.
  • 10 copies of Resource D (Form collecting information about cases of hardship arising from the power station development). There need to be at least as many copies as there are Roberts family groups. Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
  • 10 X A2 sheets of paper and a variety of felt tip marker pens.
  • 1 set of Resource E (Numbered cards relating the story of the Bikini Islanders from 1945 to the present day) preferably laminated.


continuum: a technique for visually showing a range of opinions on a topic. Participants form a line with those absolutely in agreement at one end and those absolutely against at the other with all the other degrees of opinion ranged between.

dramatic contrasts: movement and stillness, sound and silence, and light and dark. They provide excitement and variety in drama.

interrogating a freeze frame: a process convention where questions are asked of the participants in a freeze frame to learn more about what is being depicted.

reflection circle: a process convention in which students stand in a circle and, one at a time, contribute a sentence reflecting on the drama work.

tableau (freeze frame): a convention used in both performance and process drama where members of a group use their bodies to make an image capturing an idea, theme or moment in time.

thought tapping: a process convention in which the action is frozen and a leader moves among the participants, tapping individual's shoulders to activate the speaking aloud of the thoughts of that role. Sometimes the leader activates the speaking by merely moving close to the individual.

TIR: a process convention and teaching strategy where the teacher manages a class from within a drama by taking a role to deepen and extend students' enquiry and learning.

TIR (second in command): this teacher in role doesn't know but offers to find out. He/she may refer to a higher authority to avoid having to give an answer or make a decision. The flexibility allows the teacher, at any time, to relinquish authority or take full authority as the situation demands.

writing in role: a convention that involves writing as the character, using the character's voice to express thoughts and/or feelings about a situation.

The Big Question

  • What do we do when we disagree with what those in authority are planning?
  • How far can we take protest?
Learning Sequence Teaching Notes

1. Introduction

Read out some statements about issues that have involved New Zealanders.

Each issue has a card with an introductory summary and then a question. The teacher uses one of these to create the initial continuum.

Students form a continuum based on how much they agree or disagree with the question at the end of the statement. They then discuss their feelings with people near them in the continuum.

For each issue, there are also some cards, each with a particular point of view and a fictitious person who may hold the opinion. These cards are given to individual students to read out (in role) after the initial continuum as been formed. After each opinion is read, students have the opportunity to move their position on the continuum.

The process is repeated for each of the three issues.

Reflect on:

  • sound ways to form an opinion
  • traps to avoid
  • changing one's mind
  • the need to have opinions
  • respect for others' opinions
Resource A has cards covering three New Zealand issues: the 1981 Springbok Tour, the 1975 Land Hikoi and the New Zealand Anti Nuclear Policy.

2. Examining the pretext

Discuss with the whole class the place of protest in society:

  • What sorts of things might we need to protest?
  • How can we make ourselves heard?
  • Are there times when authorities should not allow protest?
  • Is civil disobedience okay? Violence? Terrorism?
Key Competency: Remind students that thinking is an important part of learning where they are drawing on personal knowledge, asking questions and challenging assumptions.

3. Show students the poster .

  • What do you see? (Do not interpret yet.)
  • What sort of shirt is depicted? What do you normally associate with this type of shirt? What's on the shirt? Why?
  • What can you say about the use of colour in the poster? Is the person merely tanned? Is water this colour?
  • What can you say about the words used? Why are the names on the poster not put next to islands or atolls?
  • What is the mood or tone of the poster?
  • In what ways is this poster a protest?

The poster could be projected on an OHP, a Data Projector or printed on an A3 sheet. Whichever method is used, it is important that the best reproduction possible is achieved so that students can discuss details of the image.

Key Competency This discussion is an aspect of using language, symbols and texts. Developing skill in this competency may be evaluated by the teacher or the students themselves.

4. A Role Play

Setting up the space
The students set the room up as if for a public meeting of citizens from Newdale, a middle to low socio-economic suburb in the city of Finesville. The meeting is taking place in the local high school hall. The meeting is to be addressed by a representative of the Finesville city council.

Creating the role
Students are given time to decide on a realistic role they will adopt as a Newdale citizen. They may be homeowners or renting, single or married, adult or youth, in family groups or alone. One way of doing this is to have the students move about the room independently while the teacher calls out questions like: Name? Age? Landowner or renting? Married or single? Job?
 When they have decided on a role they enter the meeting space in role prepared to take a part in the meeting.

Teacher in Role (TIR) (Second in Command)
For the meeting the teacher will take a role as a representative of the council.

 "Good evening ladies and gentlemen. I'm very grateful that so many of you have been able to come along this evening to what is a very important meeting. My name is Tim Featherstone and I work for the Finesville City Council. The Mayor, Mabel Manners, regrets that she is unable to be here because of a prior commitment and so she has sent me along.

 "You will be very aware that the government has been signalling increasing urgency to develop a new and major source of energy to meet the needs of the country's expanding industrial development. They have been researching the best location to develop a major new power station that will meet energy needs for the next decade at least.

 "This brings us to the purpose of this meeting. The Ministry for Energy has decided that the prime site for the development would be right here in Finesville. Having the development in our city will bring us enormous benefits in the way of providing economic stimulus through developing industries and employment opportunities. We are indeed fortunate to have been selected.

 "However such a facility has to be built somewhere and the favoured location is right here in the suburb of Newdale. We know that many of you will find this somewhat alarming But we ask you to think of the benefit for the whole city - benefits in which you will share.

 "From tonight you will have 14 days within which to make a submission on the proposal. However I have been told to ask you to keep in mind the tremendous positive spin offs the building of the power station will have for the city of Fineville in general. The Council is sorry the time frame is so short, but the government is very anxious to move on this.

 "I am now happy to try and answer any questions you may have.

After questions in role:

 "Thank you for your attendance and contributions to the discussion. You will all be notified through the post of more details of the scheme in the next month or so. Good evening."

This needs to occur on two levels.

A. Thinking about the role play.
Begin with a reflection circle and use ideas from that for a class discussion of what worked and what didn't. Important questions are:

  • What was the most positive contribution I made to the role play?
  • What would improve my contribution next time?
  • How will I achieve this?

These questions can be discussed in pairs and then reported back in class discussion.

B. Thinking about what effect the meeting might have on your character and family.

  • What was said on the way home?
  • How did you sleep that night?
  • Who did you speak to about the situation over the next few days?
  • What are your greatest fears?
  • Do you have any ideas about what you might do to protect yourself or your family?

Writing in role
As your character, on the day after the meeting, write your submission to the government giving your reasons why the building of the power station should not go ahead.

Depending on the drama experience of the class, the teacher may need to precede this activity with some discussion on setting up a space for a public meeting and also on setting up a space for dramatic activity to happen.

Again, how much assistance the teacher needs to give the students to create appropriate roles, so that they can participate best in the role play, will depend on their experience and ability. The teacher may have to discuss the importance of adopting sensible roles that provide opportunities in the role play and using names that are not funny or having reference to actual people.

If students are not experienced in this way of working, the teacher will need to explain ground rules about

  • signalling when in or out of role
  • appropriate behaviour during the role play

before the exercise begins.

The teacher may wish to support the role with a piece of formal attire (e.g. wearing a tie) and/or a prop (e.g. a folder of papers).










This is a typical second in command role where the role enjoys some status/authority over the other participants but is not the final word on any issue. If questions are asked that the TIR does not wish to answer, he/she can simply say, "I will have to refer that back to my superiors." or "The council will have to authorise something like that."



It probably pays at this point for the role play to pause while the teacher checks the students' perception of what has happened. Depending on the class, the teacher may also want to discuss what questions might be asked of Mr Featherstone before going back into role and continuing the scene.



The teacher may wish to use some of the Self or Peer/Group evaluation templates in order to evaluate student progress in relevant Key Competencies here. It is suggested that teachers choose those most relevant to their students rather than using them all. Questions and foci can be changed in the templates as well to make them relevant to individual students. The very best practice would be to co-construct the templates with groups of (or even individual) students.





Assessment Opportunity

  • Maintain a role and write a response to the in-role discussion. (See Assessment )

5. The Rising Action: A point of tension frozen in time.

It is two months after the public meeting took place. It is the evening on the day the letter from the government has arrived. The Roberts family is gathered in the kitchen and the letter has just been read out by a family member.

The students form groups of 4 - 5. These will take roles as members of the Roberts family (all over the age of 12) except for one person who will be a director.

Each group forms a tableau of the family at the moment the letter has finished being read. (Furniture from the room may be used in the freeze frame.)

Examine each of the tableaux in turn with the remainder of the class.

  • Evaluate the structural qualities of the tableau
  • Interrogate the freeze frame Question participants in role to find out more about the meaning
  • Use thought tapping to discover how characters are feeling or what they are thinking
  • Play the next ten seconds of time or 'rewind' to lead into the moment.

Depending on the class, the teacher might give a copy of the letter to each group and the family can work their way into the freeze as it is read OR it might be preferable for the teacher to read out the letter while families organise their tableau.

The letter is deliberately written formally and uses technical vocabulary. In some cases, it may be necessary to discuss the contents with the students before they organise the tableau.

Remind students of Key Competency learning here - especially managing self , relating to others and participating and contributing .

Things to examine include body language, groupings, focus, levels, tension, awareness of audience.

Use the following structure. The student asking must begin with the name of the student being asked the question and then put the question. There are to be no questions to the group generally.

  It is fun if the teacher makes tape recorder noises to pause, rewind and start the imaginary VCR.

6. Performance

Each group, making use of the student director, devises a 30 to 60 second performance that begins from the freeze frame directly following the letter's being read out and finishes, in another freeze frame, after the line, said by one of the family: "We're going to protest this."

The aim of the performance is to be as realistic and convincing as possible. Pay especial attention to the important contrasts of sound and silence and movement and stillness.

Examine each performance in turn with the remainder of the class.

  • 'Identify a moment when silence is used to good effect. Why is it effective in this situation?'
  • 'Identify a moment when stillness is used to good effect. Why is it effective in this situation?'
  • 'Look closely at the concluding freeze frame. Does it tell us anything about the characters?'

Take a few moments with the class to explore ways the line might be said - with aggression, with disbelief, as a question.

Assessment Opportunity

  • Devise and perform a drama within specific limitations, using prescribed conventions.
  • Provide relevant feedback to other students' work identifying ways in which techniques and conventions create meaning.
  • Participate appropriately in the planning and development process of a group drama.

(See Assessment )
(This brief and controlled performance activity provides an excellent chance to assess students on any of a range of skills such as management of dramatic contrasts, commitment to role, use of techniques.)

7. Another TIR

The teacher introduces the next development:
"There has been such a rumbling of discontent in Newdale that the Council has arranged another meeting to listen to problems and try to provide assistance"

For this stage of the drama, the students who have played roles as directors previously will work in pairs as council clerks who will take details from families, listen to specific problems and try to provide assistance for the disruption that will occur in the families' lives. One clerk will do the interviewing. The other will fill in the form .

Although the families are all variants of the 'Roberts family', they will have by now taken on different characteristics and have identified different issues.

It is the night of the follow up public meeting in the Newdale High School Hall. The room is set up differently this time with provision for small separate meetings (something like a parent-teachers evening) around the perimeter of the room. There should be, at each station, a desk with two chairs for the council clerks on one side and three chairs for the family on the other.

The meeting begins with TIR, as Tim Featherstone again, addressing the families who will either stand in the middle of the room or sit if there are sufficient chairs.

Have the families enter the space in role. When everyone is assembled, TIR excuses himself to the waiting families, turns his back to them and holds a whispered conversation with the group of clerks. The subject of the whispering is that, as a sweetener, the clerks may, if pushed (and only if pushed), offer

  • that some assistance may be given for the expenses of relocation or
  • they may offer a small premium above the government valuation of the house and
  • they may offer counselling for the mental stress of the upheaval of the community. The clerks go to their desks and the TIRaddresses the families:

     "Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, it is good to see you here again. I am told you will all have received your letters outlining how the proposed scheme will affect you and tonight is your chance to let the council know any specific issues or problems that may affect your particular family situation.

     "The government has indicated that in special circumstances there may be some forms of assistance available to families. The people who will be taking your details can tell you more about that. They are sensitive to the possible stresses that the situation may be causing.

     "However, please keep in mind that you are playing an important role in a development that will benefit the city of Finesville and indeed the whole country.

     "Please be patient while you wait for your turn. It is a big job and we need to be thorough. The representatives will now deal with family groups."

    The interviews take place. Everyone needs to play his/her role and keep in role for the duration. There needs to be an agreed way of stopping the action if absolutely necessary. It could be by loudly calling "Time out!" or some other agreed signal. After the problem is dealt with, the teacher restarts from where the action was at.

    When the action has played long enough - but before every family has completed the interview the TIR interrupts:

     "I'm sorry, ladies and gentlemen, but we will need to draw proceedings to a close at this point. We only have the hall until 9 p.m. and it is already five past. Could you please quickly finish off and could my people please gather up the forms and bring them to me.

     "I'd like to thank you all for your attendance tonight."

    TIR immediately starts going around the various tables pressuring people to finish (all with an exaggerated smile and politeness) and collecting up the forms.

    The class de-roles and reflects on the experience. The focus should be on how students felt in the role at various points and memorable things that were said.

    A second focus for the reflection will be to revisit the discussion on contribution and participation from the first role play.

  • What was the most positive contribution I made to the role play?
  • What would improve my contribution next time?
  • How will I achieve this?
  • Again, these questions can be discussed in pairs and then reported back in class discussion.

It is deliberate that the form is taken up mostly with bureaucratic detail leaving minimal room for the recording of concerns. The form is symptomatic of the Council's rather cynical approach to this meeting.


Again, the students should have the responsibility of setting up the space which calls upon a range of Key Competencies .


Deliberately, there are not quite enough chairs to go round.



This should all be off-hand and rather pointedly rude.



While the exercise takes place, the teacher remains in role as Tim Featherstone. The aim is to increase the tension of the situation and make the families disgruntled with events by actions such as:

  • engaging family groups in conversation as they await their turn and making light of their issues
  • breaking in on interviews, with exaggerated politeness, and whispering to representatives about moaning families, the need to move things along, that all this will make no difference anyway
  • taking interviewers aside one at a time to tell them the government has rescinded the offers of assistance with relocation, paying a premium on government valuation or counselling for stress.

    By remaining in role, the teacher can monitor what is happening and even keep class discipline largely from within the role.



    Perhaps lead into this with a pairs discussion and then use a reflection circle.

    (See the range of templates )

8. Anticlimax

The citizens of Newdale have decided to protest what is planned for their suburb and are preparing a protest march through the main street of Finesville. Students create placards to carry and prepare slogans to chant.

They begin to rehearse the event.

Very soon after the rehearsal begins TIR enters as Tim Featherstone:

 "Ladies and gentlemen, ladies and gentlemen, could I please have your attention? Will you listen to me, please?

 "Thank you. Unfortunately, your request for permission to march in the centre of Finesville this Friday lunchtime has been declined. Council has decided that the event would cause too much disruption to traffic and the public. I must also inform you that any attempt to carry on with the protest without a permit will make participants liable to arrest and prosecution. I suggest you now discontinue your plans and disperse. Thank you."


  • Large sheets of paper or card
  • Felt tips

The teacher should allow a brief time for students to respond to this invitation to react in role and then close the scene and reflect.

9. History is made.

It is 20 years after the day the permit to march was declined.

Take your role of a family member or council representative. Prepare a monologue where you tell your grandchild or child what happened following the refusal of a permit to march and how the whole issue of the power station has affected your life since.

Present the monologue to the class.

Assessment Opportunity

  • Select and use techniques suitable to develop a particular role.
  • (See Assessment )

There is opportunity with this activity to extend preparation and rehearsal time in order to make it a performance assessment for students. The advantage of using a situation such as this is that the students have had excellent opportunity to build history and depth for the role.

10. Distribute numbered cards that tell the story of the Bikini Islanders. Have the class sit quietly. If possible project images of the events and people on a screen while the cards are read in sequence.

Final Reflection
In discussion, check that students have grasped the analogy between their drama and the story of the Bikini Islanders, that, though the stories are different, they are also similar.

Suitable images to accompany this story are easily located on the internet.
A Short History of the People of Bikini Atoll is a good place to start.

Try to set up a quiet and respectful atmosphere for this activity. The story will carry the mood.

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