Leaving Home: What Is a Refugee?

Participants learn what it is like to be a refugee through pictures, video, and stories. They build empathy and do an activity that simulates choices refugees must make.

PrintOne 45 Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • define refugee.
  • reflect on choices refugees make about what to bring.
  • give examples of how individuals have helped others.
  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Give the children printouts of the handout below My Backpack. Have them individually list or draw 12 things they would put into their backpack to take with them if they had to quickly leave their homes for an unknown length of time.

    Have participants share and compare their lists with a partner and then the large group.

    This list will be used later in the session.

  2. While watching the video What is a Refugee? ask participants to listen for the meaning of refugee.

    Following the video, discuss key words, what they learned, and any questions that came up. Discuss what a refugee is and define as “ a person who has been forced to flee from their home country and is unable or afraid to return because of war, persecution, or severe climate conditions."

  3. Returning to the backpack handout, tell the children that because of dangerous conditions, they don't have time to pack 12 items in their backpack. They need to cross off six, keeping the things they need most. Have participants share and compare their current lists with a partner and then the large group.

  4. Now they are fleeing, and their backpacks are too heavy. They have to leave behind three of the items and keep only three. What do they remove, what do they keep, and why? Have participants share and compare their reduced lists with a partner and then the large group. Talk about the difficulties they had in deciding what was important to keep or get rid of.

  5. Discuss:

    1. What did you pack to eat or drink? Why?
    2. Did you bring money? Why or why not?
    3. Did you pack anything to prevent items from being ruined by seawater or rain? Why or why not?
    4. How do you feel about making these decisions?
    5. What are some things all participants kept in, or eliminated from their backpacks?
  6. Conclude the lesson by reading the book “Lubna and Pebble” and using the Lubna and Pebble Literature Guide to direct your group’s discussion. Focus on Lubna’s experiences as a refugee, her “need” for Pebble, and her act of kindness/empathy in giving Pebble to her friend.