Hot topics in the classroom

Educating for change article written on the 20 Jun 2011

How do you incorporate a controversial topic like refugees and asylum seekers into your classroom? If you’d like some ideas, see below for some excellent resources.

Go back to where you came from is the much anticipated documentary about six Australians, who ‘challenge their preconceived notions about refugees and asylum seekers’ which will screen on 21-23 June on SBS. When you’re planning for Term 3 – I know, a million light years away yet – keep in mind that the documentary has linked classroom resources that will be available on the 22 June that will no doubt encourage lively discussions and debate. To catch a glimpse of what so many people are already talking about, you can see a two minute preview of the documentary here.

As part of this year’s Refugee Week (19-25 June), the Refugee Council of Australia has also compiled a great Teacher’s Pack which allows students to explore this complex area through activities, discussion questions, unmasking myths, fact sheets, weblinks and actions. The suggested curriculum links are to Studies of Society and Environment/Human Society and its Environment, Civics and Citizenship. You can also download the Refugee Week poster created by artist Shaun Tan to put up around the school.

Refugee Realities is a project designed by Oxfam to engage people and increase awareness and empathy on the experiences of refugees affected by humanitarian crisis. Although the interactive simulations are not running this year, the education resources can be used as standalone units that cover topics such as refugee children, mapping refugees across the globe, displacement, natural disasters, the rights of refugees and more. The resources are also mapped to the Victorian and ACT curricula.

Finally, more for your time beyond the classroom, Welcome to Australia are encouraging us to get into the spirit by throwing a “Welcome party” with our friends and family to symbolically give refugees a warm, positive welcome. Perfect for the upcoming school holidays when a party may be in order!