Lesson plans for ages 9-11 in Human Rights and Refugees: To Be a Refugee

Teaching Tools, 26 June 2007

© UNHCR/S.Martins
Violent conflict in Timor-Leste caused 65,000 people to flee their homes in Dili in 2006. They sought refuge next to churches, convents, clinics, schools, international agencies and the airport, as well as other sites.

LESSON 1: Spot the Refugee Part 1

Preparation

Either the teacher can bring in several Lego model people, or ask the students 'for homework' to bring in their own Lego people for this lesson.

Run off a class set of the poster entitled Spot the Refugee. Fold each copy of the poster from just below the title so that the writing is hidden.

Procedure

This lesson begins with a brainstorming session. The students are asked what causes a person to be a refugee. Responses can be written on the blackboard by the teacher. Stress that people flee their country of origin out of a fear of persecution (serious ill treatment) because of their race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. This part of the lesson need only take a few minutes.

If the children have brought in Lego people for this lesson, request them to arrange their Lego figures on their desks.

Ask the students what similarities all the Lego people share? (Responses could include: all the figures have similarly-shaped yellow heads; the facial features are usually the same, i.e. two black spots for the eyes and a smile; they all have similarly-shaped hands, although pirate figures can have a hook instead of a hand; they all have a body and legs which are also similar in shape, but pirate figures can have a stump instead of a leg!)

Ask how they think the manufacturers make a Lego figure resemble a woman or a girl? (Possible replies could include: select a feminine hairstyle, female clothing, pastel colours, etc).

Pass copies of the poster among the students and ask them to keep the poster folded, and to look closely at the rows of Lego people. Ask the students to suggest an identity for each figure, beginning from the first Lego person in the first row. After several have been identified, ask the students by what means they decided upon each identity? For example, did they look at the clothes, the facial appearance and/or the gender?

The students are informed that the people who designed this poster decided that one of the figures is supposed to be a refugee. Ask the students to spot the refugee, and to describe how they came up with their identification. Do any of their reasons match the descriptions written on the blackboard at the beginning of the lesson?

This is an important lesson in the dangers of stereotyping and prejudice. You may choose not to use those terms with this age group, but they should be brought to understand the harm which can be caused by thoughtless name-calling and attribution of negative characteristics to a whole social group.

Consolidation

Close the lesson by writing the correct definition of a refugee, in simple English, on the board:

Refugees are people who have left their homeland because they fear that they will lose their lives or their freedom if they stay.

Ask the children to copy the definition into their notebooks.