Imagine this: You’re a kid in Iraq, and your parents tell you to pack your bags because your family has to leave the country in five minutes. What are the 10 things you take with you? Now your family needs help carrying their belongings. Which five of your things could you leave behind?
This was just one of several learning exercises that English teacher Lauren Fardig had her 9th graders do at Banana Kelly High School in Bronx, N.Y. In a PBS NewsHour report, Fardig discussed how she took her students on a virtual journey to the Middle East in order to teach them about the millions of refugees who fled the Iraq war. The course, which departs from the usual school curriculum, was guided and designed by an education nonprofit called the Morningside Center.
Over five weeks, the class performed online research on the Middle East, viewed and discussed photos of refugee families, and wrote poems about the refugee experience.
Fardig’s students live in poor communities in the inner city. “They grow up with such a limited world view, that I think it’s really important to expose them to what’s happening in the rest of the world,” Fardig told PBS. She also added that since there are kids in her class who are homeless or in the foster care system, they are able to “understand more than a lot of high school students what it feels like to be displaced.”
The course also made some of her students see their own lives in a new light. One student commented, “There’s no war outside my door. I’m fortunate for that, I’m fortunate to have my family with me, to have support, have a roof over my head, be able to sleep at night.”
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.