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Activity 5: Watchdogs For Justice — An Unfair Snack (15 minutes), Session 13: Justice for All

In "Moral Tales," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

  • Lots of different snack foods including some plain uninteresting foods as well as some highly appealing foods
  • Serving bowls or plates
  • Eating utensils
  • Plates (one per child)
  • Slips of paper and a pencil or pen

Preparation for Activity

  • Purchase food that you can divide unfairly and which is easy to serve and share. You may wish to use a variety of snack foods, from fancy cupcakes to plain saltine crackers, from exotic fruit juices to water. If allergies and other dietary restrictions in the group limit your options, pretzel nuggets and potato chips may make good choices (if no one is allergic to wheat).
  • Estimate the number of children in the group and write the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 on slips of paper. Use this proportion: The "ones" who will get the abundant snack should be 1/10 of the group, the "twos" 2/10 of the group, the "threes" 5/10 of the group, and the "fours" — who will receive inadequate snack — should be 2/10 of the group. In other words, if the group has 20 children, you will need two "ones," four "twos, ten "threes" and four "fours." This proportion mimics the distribution of wealth in the world.
  • Saving some food aside to ensure you can redistribute snacks fairly at the end of the activity, portion the snack food into four kinds of servings: extremely abundant for the "ones," plentiful but not excessive for the "twos," just enough for the "threes" and completely inadequate for the "fours." If you have different kinds of food to work with, you might give all the "ones" several cupcakes, some fruit, some crackers and a full cup of juice, and give the "fours" a saltine cracker and little bit of water. If you have beverages, pour out cups in four different types of portions: abundant, plentiful, no frills and inadequate.
  • Cover food and place it on one or two tables, along with necessary dishes and utensils.

Description of Activity

Say in your own words:

Just as in our story, where some people didn't have enough food while the king had very extravagant amounts of food, people around the United States and all around the world have different amounts of food to eat. Some have plenty and even have too much sometimes. Other people have just enough. Some people have too little food and some people are even starving.

Today we are going to have a special snack so we can see what it is like around the world in terms of how much food different people get to eat.

Ask one or two children to volunteer to be the first watchdogs for justice. Explain that they will bark like the dog in the story until the snack is fair. Tell them that after a few minutes the children will trade roles and everyone will have a chance to be a watchdog for justice. Assure them that the watchdogs will have a chance to eat snack, too.

Give all participants a number. NOTE: it may be best to control which child gets which number such that any children whom you know to be especially wealthy get higher numbers (less food) and any children whom you know to be impoverished get lower numbers (more food).

Have participants sit at the table or tables in groups based on their numbers. Explain that if the watchdogs for justice bark, no one can eat. Everyone must wait until everyone has been served and the watchdogs are silent.

Position the watchdogs for justice by the tables. Tell them to start their job as soon as you start serving the food. Give children with the number "1" the overabundant snack. Give children with the number "2" the abundant snack. Give children with the number "3" the "no frills" snack. Give children with the number "4" the insufficient snack.

Once everyone has been served, tell the children they may begin eating. Have the watchdogs bark as long as the situation is unfair. They can go right behind the children with plenty and bark loudly. After a few minutes, rotate and have two new children take on the role as watchdogs for justice. Give each child the opportunity to be a justice maker in the role of watchdog.

Help the children make the situation more just. Ask the children with more food what they can do to get the dogs to stop barking at them, i.e., to make the situation more fair. Encourage them to think about the experience from the point of view of their less fortunate peers, to look around and see who has less and — hopefully — offer to share some of their snack with them. Ask the children who have less food what they can do in order to get a fair serving. Encourage them to advocate for themselves by naming the injustice and asking for more food.

If the children who have more food are not willingly redistributing the food, ask the rest of the participants how they can respond. Meanwhile, the watchdogs should still be barking. Ideas include having the rest of the children join the barking watchdogs, taking the food non-violently from the children who have a lot, appealing to the leaders to act on their behalf, eating less (not the desired outcome!), staging a protest, assigning the children who are not sharing their abundant snacks the job of being watchdogs.

If an equitable food situation is accomplished, have everyone sit together and eat the snack. If it is not accomplished, intercede and make it fair, either by taking some food from the children who have too much, or by adding food from the snacks you saved aside. Enjoy the snack!

The goal of this activity is to make unfairness concrete and real for participants while also providing the opportunity to address the unfairness and act as justice makers. By practicing the role of "watchdog," all participants become empowered to stand up against injustice.

Including All Participants

It is important to remember with this activity that there is likely to be economic disparity within the group, with the possibility of extreme disparity such as a particularly wealthy child alongside a child who is living below the poverty line. Avoid using language that assumes one financial situation for all participants, such as "in our town we all have lots of food to eat." In addition, as suggested above, if you are aware of any children who are living in poverty, you may wish to place them in groups that get enough food in this exercise.

In planning your snack for this activity, be aware of any allergies or dietary restrictions in the group. You may decide (if no one is allergic to wheat) to use only pretzel nuggets and potato chips, with portions ranging from large handfuls or bowls full (extreme abundance) to a pretzel nugget and a potato chip (inadequate snack).

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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