At Shorewood Intermediate School (SIS), seventh grade students are currently studying the Syrian Civil War and the Syrian Refugee Crisis. To help them better understand the unit concepts, the seventh grade students--along with the eighth grade students who studied this unit last year--were given the unique opportunity to experience a refugee simulation, thanks to the Global Human Project (GHP). GHP helps schools and communities to host a refugee simulation called "Walk a Mile in My Shoes." This unique and dynamic learning experience provides students with a powerful glimpse into what many refugees endure when fleeing from their homes and living in a refugee camp.
On Thursday, March 2, the SIS students were divided into family groups of five and each was given a new cultural identity, representing one of the region's six main resettled refugee populations (Syria, Somalia, Bhutan, Burma, Cuba and El Salvador). The students had to study and memorize their new background and identities. The groups were then asked to travel through the simulation, where they would encounter the hardships that are common to refugees living in camps.
The experience began when the student participants fled their home country (the SIS front doors) and encountered an obstacle course at their "national border" (outside in the SIS parking lot).
Throughout the process, many students encountered smugglers and scenarios to barter for documentation and safe passage. They also experienced waiting in lines, evading security to avoid detention and jail experiences, as well as security check interviews, and meetings with immigration judges.
Teachers and staff members--representing border control--asked to check the students' papers and some families were rejected while others were allowed to enter the new country (the SIS Gym).
Those who successfully entered, had to proceed to the United Nations High Commissioner (UNHCR) for Refugees camp, where they faced the following challenges at different stations set up throughout the gym:
• registering their family as refugees at the UNHCR tables
• getting a health examination at a medical tent
• obtaining and purifying water
• securing food at distribution area
• learning a new language
The simulation came to a close when the students were informed of the grim facts of resettlement: Because less than 1% of the 16.7 million refugees in the world are chosen for resettlement, almost every family was informed that they were not eligible to be resettled in a third country and that they must return to the camp. Only one family was chosen to represent the 1% who are resettled in a third country.
When the simulation concluded, the students engaged in debriefing conversations and were allowed the opportunity to reflect on their experience, sharing insights through writing.
Later that day, students watched "Salam Neighbor", had classroom discussions, and engaged in an art lesson to debrief and discuss the concepts and experiences they learned during the day.
For more information on the Global Human Project, visit: http://www.globalhumanproject.net/.