Refugee Rights

6, 7, 8

Students build an understanding and empathy for the life of a refugee. They examine the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and identify rights that are denied to refugees. They connect rights and responsibilities as they determine the value to the common good of protecting rights of refugees.

PrintTwo 50-Minute Sessions

The learner will:

  • reflect on the daily life of a refugee child.
  • describe refugees as groups who have been denied their individual rights.
  • identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibilities.
  • identify UNHCR as a civil society organizations that protects and speaks for minority viewpoints.
  • describe the responsibility students have to act in the civil society sector to improve the common good.
Teacher Preparation 

You may gather a variety of materials for making toys (see Materials above) or ask the students to bring in recycled materials. Distribute the materials among three brown paper bags so each group has a variety to work with. Write the following directions on the bag or on an index card inside the bag:

Work as a group using these materials to make a toy or toys that refugee children might play with to have fun together.

  • civil society: A set of intermediate associations which are neither the state nor the extended family; civil society therefore includes voluntary associations and firms and other corporate bodies
  • human rights: inalienable moral entitlement attached to all persons equally, simply by virtue of their humanity, irrespective of race, nationality, or membership of any particular social group. They specify the minimum conditions for human dignity and a tolerable life.
    refugee: someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group; a refugee either cannot return home or is afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.
  • resettlement: the process of helping a refugee find a new, permanent home when they cannot safely reside in a country of first asylum or return home  
  • rights: a power or privilege to which one has a just claim
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights: a declaration adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 as the first global expression of rights to which all human beings are entitled

Display the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" Ask students to select one right that they believe is the most important right to protect. Have them write a paragraph explaining why they value this right above the others.



  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Review the exit cards(one thing students learned about refugees)from the end of Lesson One as a class and record their responses on the KWL chart on the board. Have students record their classmates‘ responses onto their individual KWL charts. Discuss what they have learned and how they feel about the life of refugees.

  2. Display the poster "How Does it Feel?"At first, cover up the text under the image. Tell the students that the woman in blue stripes is a refugee. Say, "Now that you have experienced a bit of what it is like to be a refugee, I want you to try to imagine how this woman feels. Write one thought on how you think the woman in blue stripes feels." After reflecting and sharing responses, the teacher should reveal the text that corresponds with the poster. Discuss.

  3. Students will participate in three 10-minute rotations that will allow them to experience things as a refugee might experience them. The teacher should explain the activities for each rotation before beginning the rotation activities.

  4. Rotation 1 -- Learning to Read a New Language: In this rotation students follow the directions on Handout One: "Learning to Read a New Language" to experience the difficulty refugees face in learning a new language. Extension activity for this rotation: Students may reflect on what they would bring if they had to flee their home. They may record their list on the back of their worksheet.

  5. Rotation 2 --Learning to Write a New Language: In this rotation students follow the directions on Handout Two: "Writing a New Language"to experience what it is like to write an unfamiliar language in school. Extension activity for this rotation: Students may write the name of a group member using the new alphabet.

  6. Rotation 3 -- Creating Your Own Fun: In this rotation students use the materials provided to create a toy that can be used for fun by the children in the refugee camp. The teacher should write the directions for the activity on the paper bag of materials or on an index card inside the bag. NOTE: To add a little fun/competition, the teacher may inform students that the class will vote on the toy they would be most likely to play with and that group will win a prize.

  7. For the closing assessment, students will reflect on their experiences as a refugee. Ask students to complete one of the following sentence : ―Respond to ONE of the following prompts: 1. When I was learning to read as a refugee I felt… 2. When I was learning to write as a refugee I felt… 3. When I was creating a toy as a refugee I felt…

  8. Day Two

    Anticipatory Set:

    Ask students to respond to the following prompt: "Envision a classroom with new rules. Describe what that would look like: What would the teacher be doing? What would the students be doing? and What would the classroom look like?" Students may share their visions. Then, discuss what would help the new classroom to have order. The responses should include "rules." If students do not state this idea, the teacher may bring up the topic and encourage a discussion of the importance of rules.

  9. Tell the class that one reason to have rules is to protect the rights of all students. Work as a class to form a working definition of the word rights. Once a definition is composed, students should reflect on the rights they have as students. Make a list of students' rights; the right to learn, the right to safety, the right to share opinions without fear of being put down. With those rights in mind, discuss the responsibilities students have to the community.How are rights and responsibilities directly related?

  10. After students brainstorm a list of rights, they will work in small groups to devise a list of classroom rules (related to rights and responsibilities) that will help maintain order in the classroom, while also respecting the rights of students.

  11. After student groups determine their rules, they may share them with the class. Ask the students whether their rules would be appropriate in a refugee camp. Why or why not?

  12. Lead a brief discussion about the rights of refugees. "What rights and responsibilities do you think refugees have?"

  13. Display "The Universal Declaration of Human Rights" (both the full version and abbreviated versions are available for this). Tell the students that the United Nations developed this list of rights of all humans in order to promote peace, justice,and freedom for all. Read highlights from the preamble (in the full version) and then have students read through all the rights, thinking about refugees as they read them. Discuss what rights have been denied to refugees. Ask, "Why is good for everyone (the common good) to make sure all people have these rights?"

  14. Help students recognize the importance of rights for all humans. Help students see the connection between the rights they decided upon for the classroom and the rights of refugees. Tell them that the civil society sector (includes voluntary associations and intergovernmental units) works to protect the rights of refugees. UNHCR is one organization established to support refugees. Ask the students to start thinking about what they can do to support refugees.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark MS.4 Identify civil society organizations that protect and speak for minority viewpoints.
      2. Benchmark MS.5 Discuss examples of groups denied their rights in history.
    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. Benchmark MS.12 Identify the dilemma of minority rights in a pure democracy.
      3. Benchmark MS.3 Identify the relationship between individual rights and community responsibilities.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.5 Describe the responsibility students have to act in the civil society sector to improve the common good.