Lesson plans for ages 9-11 in History: Refugees in History

Teaching Tools, 10 March 2007

© UNHCR/J.Redfern
This young Karen family contemplate their new home in a refugee camp, Mae Ra Ma Luang.

LESSONS 2 and 3: What do you see in your mind?


This lesson aims to consolidate understanding of the concept "refugee", through examination of historical examples of refugee groups. The students will have an opportunity to practise library research skills.


Have ready a class set of the Activity Sheet: Refugees in History and book the school library for the class.


Link to previous lesson: Questions about the homework concerning the students' family trees:

Who among the students has an ancestor who came from another country? Did the ancestor leave his/her homeland in search of a more prosperous life, or because there was danger in the home country? Revision question: What is a refugee? Do any of the students have an ancestor who was a refugee?


There have been refugees throughout history. Where there is persecution or human rights violation resulting from armed conflict, people flee to save their lives. Ask the students to suggest causes for flight and any examples that they can think of from history or from contemporary events. The history of each of the world's three great monotheistic religions includes examples of forced migration and refugee-like flight.

Moses led the Children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt to a Promised Land. Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus fled to Egypt, to escape the persecution of King Herod. Mohammed and his followers undertook the Hegira ("flight") from Mecca to Medina, in 622, to escape the persecution of the Meccans.

Demonstrate to the students how the causes of flight can follow a series of steps,

e.g. prejudice (based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership of a particular group) leads to discrimination, which in turn can lead to persecution, which often results in a flight to safety, where possible.

Where there is outright armed conflict or war, people try to escape to safety.


Write on the blackboard the following list of historical refugee groups:

If your library or teaching resources contain materials on other refugee groups in history, by all means add or substitute them.

Hand out the Activity Sheet: Refugees in History, informing the students that this part of the lesson will be spent in the library, where the students will use the assignment sheet as a guide as they refer to the available resources such as encyclopaedias and history reference books to research information about one of the above refugee groups.