Tuesday, January 19, 2016

5 Engaging Ways to Teach about the Refugee Experience



In 2015, displaced people around the world faced incredible challenges. The well-being of refugees and the policy decisions affecting them are still at the forefront of many people’s minds. Throughout history, the U.S. has responded at times with generosity and at other times by shutting out those seeking refuge. 

We highlight these historical perspectives in our lesson plan, “A Land of Refuge or Refusal? Perspectives on the Refugee Experience in the United States” which we’ve recently updated to include the ways refugees have contributed to the U.S. Some—like Albert Einstein and Elie Weisel, who were Jewish refugees—have become well-known. Yet there are countless others whose stories may not be as familiar. Meet some of these notable figures now featured in our lesson plan and help students learn about their significant contributions through advancements in the fields of public service, science and technology, entrepreneurship, literature, and the arts. Undoubtedly, these stories will inspire youth to achievement. 

As the global refuge crisis continues to make headlines, we’re highlighting some of our favorite resources and methods to teach about this important topic in addition to or to extend our lesson plan:




  • Incorporate Global Perspectives to Broaden Understanding: The Global Refugee Crisis, Region by Region (New York Times) uses maps, photos, and short narratives to highlight some of the major geographic pressure points and the reasons people are migrating.



  • Engage with Interactive Maps: Use National Geographic’s MapMaker to explore how and why people are forcibly displaced. The interactive layers on Mapping Displaced Persons Around the World can be used to teach about push immigration factors and introduce key terms. The Teaching Channel has a terrific lesson on Sudanese refugee migration “Exploring Emigration: Cultural Identity” that demonstrates how students use MapMaker in class.



  • Target an Area of Study: Students will learn well from a close-study of any one of the global migration crises. With teacher guidance, students can break into groups to investigate and educate their classmates. To extend on the Syrian refugee crisis which has dominated headlines and is included in our lesson plan, consider using the Pulitzer Center’s Flight From Syria: Refugee Stories.



  • Listen to Youth Voice: Harness the power of youth voice to educate peers and adults.This short video “Teens Talk About the Hardest Part of Being a Refugee” (Mashable, 3:17) is comprised of students in Atlanta, GA talking about what they imagine life would be like in the U.S. before they arrived and what their lives are like now. Additionally, to lighten what can be a challenging topic in the classroom and to learn how a community can make a huge difference in welcoming refugees, listen and learn from the inspiring Pihcintu Multicultural Chorus, a nationally recognized immigrant youth choir based in Portland, ME.


We hope you find plenty of ways to incorporate these resources into your classroom.  If you find this information helpful, please tell a friend about our work, and give them this link http://bit.ly/1KdE5Zz to sign up to receive updates and free resources.

We offer free lesson plans, resources, book/film reviews, and grants to teach immigration. We also welcome teacher and student book reviews and contributions to our blog. Email us at teacher@immcouncil.org and follow us on twitter @ThnkImmigration #teachimmigration