Mayfield’s eighth grade participated in an interactive experience in January designed to provide insight and perspective on the reality of life as a refugee. Advisors and several teachers collaborated on the all-day program as a cross-curriculum component of the eighth grade service-learning project. They began with the question: How do we engage students so they understand and act compassionately in a world that includes people fleeing their homes in fear of their lives every minute of every day?
The worldwide refugee crisis is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today. It would be remiss in their education for our students to remain ignorant of its proportion and its effect. According to the UN High Commission on Refugees, nearly 34,000 people a day flee their homes due to persecutions and violent conflicts and 21.3 million of these people have become refugees.
To prepare for this event students studied front page headlines in history, read about a teen’s migration to America in Spanish class, considered prejudice in the story and characters of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and began learning lines for “Shrek,” this year’s eighth grade play that includes banishment and exile in the story line.
The day began with an introduction using rationed doughnuts to demonstrate the inequalities of resources in regions throughout the world. Before breaking into groups, students were given folders with the identities and stories of real individuals profiled on the United Nations website. The profiles provided glimpses into a refugee’s individual struggle such as the dangerous conditions that forced them to flee, the challenging journeys of hope or the uncertainty of acceptance in a new land.
Different activities throughout the day including small group role play, team challenges and a panel discussion with community experts allowed the opportunity for students to begin to understand with empathy and compassion this deeply human crisis.