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Lesson plans for ages 9-11 in History: Refugees in History

Teaching Tools, 9 March 2007

© UNHCR/R.LeMoyne
The conflict in Kosovo caused mass movements as people fled into neighbouring countries seeking safety.

LESSON 1: Why do people move to another country?


A class set of Activity Sheet: My family tree is required.

Activity Sheet: My Family Tree. (Teaching about refugees. History, ages 9-11.)


This first lesson could begin with the question "What does migration mean?" The word migration may stimulate responses dealing with migratory birds and animals. Explain to the children that such movements in the animal world are events repeated each year, triggered by the seasons. While migration for people may have a seasonal aspect, it also involves the permanent movement from one place to another.

People migrate for many reasons. Have a brainstorming session with the students about possible reasons for migration and let the children write down their answers on the blackboard. Although the reasons for migration are many and varied, they can, nevertheless, be divided into two broad categories push factors and pull factors.

Push factors are causes of migration which cause people to leave their homelands, while pull factors attract people to their new countries.

Ask the students to decide which of the causes of migration written on the blackboard are push factors (unemployment, war, threats to freedom, threats to life, no educational opportunities, poverty, famine, drought) and which are pull factors (work, safety, better housing, possible or better education, enough to eat and drink).

Ask the students what they think the word "refugee" means. Build on their answers, leading to the presentation of the following definition:

Refugees are people who flee their country because of a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group and who are because of this fear, unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of their country.

Explain difficult terms "well-founded', "persecution", "national protection", "political opinion". Give a couple of examples of refugee groups which illustrate parts of the definition.

Let the children mull over the above definition and ask them to suggest what could be the possible push and pull factors that act upon refugees.

Development: Ask the students if they know what a family tree is. What type of information is contained in a family tree?

Hand out the Activity Sheet: My family tree and ask the students to trace their family history by filling in the tree as much as they can by themselves. For homework, the students should complete the family tree with the aid of their parents and older relatives. They should include information about any immigrant ancestors such the country of origin, and if possible, why did the ancestor immigrate.