Dillon students tackle land-mine problem | VailDaily.com

Dillon students tackle land-mine problem

Robert Allen
Dillon, Coloado

DILLON, Colorado ” Local students aim to help rid the world of more than 100 million undetonated land mines by spreading awareness in their community.

“Every 20 minutes, somebody in the world is hurt or killed by a land mine,” said Dillon Valley Elementary fifth-grader Ben Jorgenson on Thursday.

Ben and three of his classmates presented their research findings last week in a series of presentations including lecture, video, hands-on demonstration and slide show.

It was part of the school’s fifth-grade exhibitions addressing issues ranging from women’s issues to the environment and community service.

Ben said land mines have exploded even in frequently-traveled areas, like when a man in Israel was crossing a field. He told the story of a doctor who was riding in a truck in Somolia when a land mine went off ” ultimately causing the loss of his legs.

Even children are often victims of land mines.

“Toy land mines try to hurt kids so they’re disabled and can’t be in future wars,” Ben said, adding that both Asia and Africa contain many of the mines.

Classmate Brandon Spurgeon said the group was studying links between poverty and violence when they found that land mines play a significant role with these topics.

George Richard, another member of the group, said land mines are the “most unsolvable violence” in the world, and removal would take 500 years at the present rate.

He said the mines have been in use since the 14th century.

The African giant pouched rat has become useful for sniffing out the mines without causing an explosion.

Ben said dogs had been used to sniff out the land mines, but were “too heavy” and often became victims themselves.

Brandon, George and classmate Kevin Ruano demonstrated how people hold either end of a leash, with the rat in the middle, as they carefully tread through minefields. The rats are trained to sniff out the mines by associating a treat such as cheese or a banana with metal.

Certain trucks with extra-thick metal can be driven through mine fields to detonate the mines, but the result is messier than using the rats to help with deactivation.

“They’ve actually found a way without using tractors ” tearing up the ground ” or killing people or dogs,” George said of the rats.

After each presentation, the group asked visitors to sign a letter to President Obama requesting for a ban on land mines by the United States.

March 1 was the 10th anniversary of the Mine Ban Treaty, which 156 countries have signed. The treaty bans all the mines, requires destruction of stockpiles and clearance of those already in the ground, according to the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

Last week’s student exhibitions at Dillon Valley are considered a “rite of passage” as the fifth-graders prepare for the transition to Summit Middle School. It’s part of the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme curriculum, according to the exhibition’s brochure.

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