Getting to Know Refugees

6, 7, 8

The learners will view a video and pictures to understand the plight of refugees. They will compare and contrast their own lives with those of refugee children. They will define the words philanthropy and empathy and brainstorm ideas for acting philanthropically to addess the issues faced by refugees or others in need.

PrintOne 45 Minutes Class Session

The learner will:

  • identify with the issues faced by refugee children.
  • recognize the causes and the effects of being a refugee.
  • view a video and photographs of refugees to understand some of their physical and emotional needs.
  • define philanthropy and empathy.
  • brainstormpotential solutions to improve the refugee situation.
  • UNHCR LEGO poster handout below:  “How Does It Feel?”
  • UNHCR video: “To Be A Refugee”
  • Student copies of Handouts: Experiences of a Refugee Child Rubric and  "ToBe a Refugee" Notes

philanthropy: The giving of one's time, talent or treasure for the sake of another - or for the common good

empathy: Identification with and understanding the feelings of another person



  1. Anticipatory Set:

    As a warm-up, post or project a copy of the UNHCR LEGO poster “How Does it Feel?” (non-text version, from the website). Have students answer the following question in a journal entry format:

    How would you feel if you were the isolated person in the striped shirt? Write down at least five emotions that you would likely feel, and explain why you might feel that way.

    Discuss the students’ answers as a class.

  2. Show the students the UNHCR video “To Be a Refugee.” Have the students take notes on Handout Two:"To Be a Refugee" Notes. (Note: you may assign different parts of the notes to different students.)

  3. Watch the video a second time and have the students watch for the emotions in the images. Point out details as you watch to help develop empathy in the students. After viewing a second time, tell students that they should identify the emotions and the experiences of each child in the video during his or her time as a refugee.

  4. Have a class discussion about the similarities and differences between refugees and the students within the class.

  5. Ask the learners to chose a partner to work with, and have the students work together to analyze the Time magazine photo essay, “The Urbanization of the World’s Refugees” 

  6. Each pair of students should analyze one picture from the essay. The students need to answer the following questions:

  7. 1.Identify the living conditions of the person in your chosen photo.

    2.What details within the photo make it evident that refugees do not have easy lives?

    3.Why do you think the photographer would choose this setting for his picture? What is the photographer’s purpose?

  8. Hold a whole class discussion to summarize what they discovered about the plight of refugees from the picture essay and from the video. List the physical and emotional needs of the children evidenced in the video and picture essays.

  9. Remind students of the previous class discussion about enlightened self-interest and the common good. Tell the students that when they are able to identify with the needs and feelings of refugee children, they are practicing empathy. Define empathy.

  10. Ask: Now that we have an understanding of the plight of refugees, especially that of refugee children, is it okay towatch organizations like the UNHCR address this issueor do we as empathetic individuals have a responsibility to address this issue as well? Why or why not?

  11. Tell the students that people who take action for the common good by giving their time, talent and treasure (resources) are "philanthropists." Tell the students that they can chose to act as philanthropists by addressing issues facing refugees or other people in need. Ask them to share ideas of philanthropic acts they might do related to refugees or other people in need. List their ideas in a display area that can be saved for the next lesson.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.I Definitions of Philanthropy
    1. Standard DP 01. Define Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define philanthropy as individuals and organizations providing their time, talent, and/or treasures intended for the common good throughout history and around the world. Give examples.
  2. 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 03. Philanthropy and Economics
      1. Benchmark MS.13 Describe how philanthropy can reallocate limited resources to meet human needs.
    3. Standard PCS 04. Philanthropy and Geography
      1. Benchmark MS.2 Identify and describe how regional civil society organizations help the people in the region.
  3. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Define and give examples of the motivations for giving and serving.
  4. Strand PHIL.IV Volunteering and Service
    1. Standard VS 01. Needs Assessment
      1. Benchmark MS.1 Identify a need in the school, local community, state, nation, or world.
      2. Benchmark MS.2 Research the need in the school, neighborhood, local community, state, nation, or world.