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Arkansas teacher using history to teach about current conflict in Ukraine

Students will be learning about the Ukraine and Russia conflict for years to come, but some Arkansas teachers are keeping them up to date in real-time.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Just like everything that takes place on the world stage, students will be learning about the Russian and Ukrainian conflict for years to come. 

But, some teachers aren't waiting for it to be printed in history books to start educating their students about it. 

For one social studies teacher at Mount St. Mary, her lesson plan is matching up with what's currently going on across the world. 

Rachel McLemore is continuing to teach her students about the past, but now she's blending in the present.

"This is a common experience that we're having right now and we're trying to understand it together," she said.

Since Russia invaded Ukraine, McLemore starts her class a little differently by opening up the floor to her students to discuss what's happening outside of the classroom.

"Not just that they understand this particular news event or this particular cycle, but some realization that all this other stuff that we've been covering might also be useful one day," she said.

For McLemore, her favorite part about teaching history is that it stays relevant. That's being seen right now, as the events playing out in Ukraine line up with what she's teaching about the Cold War.

"That really can help them understand sort of the geopolitical sort of history of 'why is Ukraine a flashpoint right now? Why is that something that Russia cares about?'" she said.

While it helps her students better understand the curriculum, McLemore hopes it resonates with them on a deeper level.

"It drives that home that hey, this is this is real, I should maybe pay attention," she said.

One student paying close attention is junior Anya Ratycz. 

"My family actually came here during the second World War to escape persecution, very similar to what is happening right now," she said.

Watching the terror unfold from afar has Ratycz feeling helpless and frustrated.

This is why she and her friends are spending their free period making ribbons to wear and sell, hoping the small gesture can go a long way.

"It feels like I need to do something to protect my heritage," she said.

The pins may just be a symbol, but they make Ratycz feel like her country will make it through this moment in history.

"It makes me hopeful that maybe this can all turn out okay," she said.

The students are donating all of the money that they make from the ribbons, specifically to the children in Ukraine.

For those wishing to help, you can help by donating here.

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