Refugees and Children in Our World

6, 7, 8

Learners will describe problems of refugee populations around the world and human rights issues related to refugees. They will explain how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child act to protect human rights. Understanding that refugees exist on all populated continents, learners will have a wider understanding of the basic human need for dignity that all refugees feel.

Lesson Rating 
Five to Six Forty-Five Minute Class Periods

The learner will:

  • define refugee and describe what conditions cause persons to leave their homes.
  • explain the work of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
  • describe protections afforded refugees and children through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
  • map the movement of refugees from their homes to host countries and explain their ties to those countries.
  • reflect on what a country’s treatment of refugees says about its spirit of philanthropy and respect for human rights.
Teacher Preparation 

If you would like to learn more about refugees in the US, please contact the IRC (International Rescue Committee). If they have a representative in your area, they would be happy to speak to your school about how students can take action to address this issue. Contact 


As a culmination of the unit, have the learners reflect on the lesson and write a short essay on what they have learned, using the words refugeeUniversal Declaration of Human RightsConvention on the Rights of the Child, and human rights in their reflection. Ask them to include how their perceptions may have changed since the beginning of the unit. Conclude with a statement analyzing whether the way a country treats refugees says anything about its spirit of philanthropy and respect for human rights.



  • Ellis, Deborah. The Breadwinner. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2001. ISBN: 0888994168
  • Ellis, Deborah. Mud City. Groundwood Books, 2003. ISBN: 0888995180
  • Ellis, Deborah. Parvana’s Journey. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2003. ISBN: 0888995199
  • Naidoo, Beverly. The Other Side of Truth. New York: Amistad, 2002. ISBN: 0064410021
  • Schaeffer, Marc. Refugee Education Sponsorship Program Enhancing Communities Together Handbook. Respect International, 2004. (Available from
  • To Be a Refugee: Video and Teachers’ Guide. Video available from UNHCR (, 1999.
  • Wilkes, Sybella. One Day We Had to Run! Brookfield, Conn.: Millbrook Press, 1995. ISBN: 156294844X
  • Zephanrah, Benjamin. Refugee Boy. London: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; U.S. edition 2002. ISBN: 1582347638


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Distribute 3x5 cards to the learners. Tell them that they are to imagine that rebel troops have just attacked their village. They have to leave very quickly and run away. They need to write down three things they will take with them.

    Ask learners to share what they wrote on their cards and ask them to explain why they selected what they did.

  2. Write the word refugee on the board and ask learners to give their ideas of what a refugee is. Record their responses. Using information from Basic Facts about Refugees (see weblink in Materials above), define refugee and provide enough information for the learners to understand what causes persons to become refugees. (Optional: Show the video To Be a Refugee, available free from UNHCR [], and discuss situations that turn persons into refugees.)

  3. Have the learners write a paragraph in their journals about how people become refugees.

  4. Put learners in small groups and ask them to make a list of rights they think all persons should have. Ask learners to share the rights they had on their lists. Record their responses. Share the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (see weblink in Materials) with learners. Discuss which of these rights may be violated as related to refugees.

  5. Put learners into six groups. Distribute one section of World Refugee Survey (see weblink in Materials) to each group, giving each learner a copy. The six groups should represent: Refugees in Africa; Refugees in Europe; Refugees in The Americas and the Caribbean; Refugees in East Asia and the Pacific; Refugees in Middle East; Refugees in South and Central Asia. Go over the information in the survey so that learners understand why certain countries receive refugees from other countries (across a common border, speak the same language, were in the same colonial family, etc.). Give each learner in the team the paper map that represents his/her area. Using the survey information from for their region, have the learners color their maps to represent host countries which receive refugees and home countries from which refugees are fleeing. Use the following directions:

    • Label all countries in the region.
    • Color all host countries yellow.
    • Color all home countries red.
    • For those countries which both receive refugees (host) and have people fleeing (home), alternate red and yellow stripes.
    • Leave countries which have no connection to refugees uncolored.
    • Create a map key on the map showing what the colors represent.
    • Name the map, e.g., Refugees in Middle East - 2001.
  6. When the teams have finished their maps, they should work together to prepare a short three to five minute description of their work, explaining the refugee situation in their section of the world as they are able. If possible, they should seek information from the Internet on reasons why people are leaving some of the countries in their region. Display the maps and allow each team to report.

  7. Distribute copies of Convention on the Rights of the Child (see weblink above) to the learners. Go over the purpose of the document and each article to make sure learners understand the provisions. Divide the learners into teams of two and give each team two or three articles and art supplies. Assign the teams to illustrate the articles in a poster in such a way as to clarify their intent. The top of each poster should contain the Article number and name. Exhibit the posters in a display area (media center, lunchroom, hallway, display case) which will bring the Convention to the attention of other learners.

  8. Using the Internet, visit the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees at for information on refugees and their care. Explain that the UN General Assembly has designated June 20 as World Refugee Day, and every year events around the world are organized to raise awareness and funds for refugees. Using information available from the Web site, have the learners plan an event to raise awareness and/or funds for refugees. Discuss how the fundraiser is an act of philanthropy.
  9. Option: If the local community or the school includes persons who are or have been refugees, explore that culture in a "Getting to Know You" celebration.



Learning may be assessed through group discussions, the map project on refugees, the short oral presentations of group work and the posters on the Rights of Children. Reflection papers will be assessed according to their understanding of refugees, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Convention on the Rights of the Child and human rights issues. Scoring Guide for Reflection Essay Points Description 4 The response must: explain the terms refugee and human rights. describe protections afforded refugees and children through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child include how their perceptions may have changed about the plight of refugees. analyze whether the way a country treats refugees says anything about its spirit of philanthropy and respect for human rights. 3 Contain 3 of the required elements. 2 Contain 2 of the required elements. 1 Contain 1 of the required elements. 0 Contain none of the elements.

Cross Curriculum 

The UN General Assembly has designated June 20 as "World Refugee Day," and every year events around the world are organized to raise awareness and funds for refugees. The learners will participate in their own project to raise awareness and funds.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Examine several examples of philanthropic traditions practiced in diverse cultures.
    2. Standard PCS 05. Philanthropy and Government
      1. Benchmark MS.11 Identify and give an example of organizations in the civil society sector that work to protect minority voices around the world.
  2. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 04. Raising Private Resources
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Explain in a case statement why resources (volunteers and money) are needed.
      2. Benchmark MS.4 Set a fund-raising goal and identify sources of private funds.

Academic Standards

Select categories to search for standards.

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