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Seeking Refuge: Understanding Refugees in Canada

Secondary

Description

This lesson plan is intended to introduce students to the concept of refugee protection. Students will define and appreciate what it means to be a refugee; demonstrate an understanding of rights and responsibilities with regard to refugees; and develop, through a historical lens, a basic understanding of refugees and the treatment of refugees. 

To gain an understanding of the complexity of the issues of refugee rights, students investigate the voyage of the SS St. Louis and the attempts of Captain Gustav Schroeder to find a safe refuge for his 937 passengers. Students then examine the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention and apply these standards to refugee applications.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

The varied activities require students to listen and respond and to formulate, present and defend positions taken on refugee issues.

Strengths

The refugee and immigrant debate has and is expected to remain a global issue that requires nations to respond with policies that are supported by its citizens. If that is to be an informed response, it is critical that those who contribute to that decision understand the complexities of the issue. This lesson will better guarantee that when students participate in that debate, it will be a thoughtful contribution.

The activities included in this lesson asks students to consider critical questions related to that debate (content) and adopt a pedagogy that is effective in introducing students to a consideration of those questions(process)

Recommendation of how and where to use it

The refugee issue and our response to it may be addressed as part of those units of study that are described as citizenship education and more particularly the concept of global citizenship. It is also a useful resource for those units of study dealing with human rights, especially as they relate to the relationship between the global North and the global South.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

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        • Social Studies 10-2 (Living in a Globalizing World) Canadian Response to Globalisation?
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Themes Addressed

  • Governance (1)

    • Government Regulations
  • Human Rights (1)

    • Refugees and Immigration

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good

The preamble declares that the lesson - like any critical thinking lesson - to be effective, must give students clear permission to disagree. Divergent points of view are encouraged throughout the lesson so that the issues raised are fully explored. There are no right answers and part of the lesson is intended to help students understand how challenging issues of fairness, citizenship, and justice can be. The lesson recognizes that encouraging diversity of opinion and point of view is vital to fostering democratic habits and citizenship.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

The focus of the lesson is on refugees, and a refugee is defined as someone who " owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group... is unwilling to avail himself of the protection" of his country. Such criteria are within the realm of the social dimension. In sorting out the difference between refugees and immigrants, students may debate whether the definition of refugee should be expanded to include environmental and economic refugees while recognizing the interplay between these factors. 

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good

The lesson first requires students to understand the confusion and misunderstandings that arises from the use of terms such as " illegal immigrant", "illegal aliens", "queue/line jumpers". The lesson also includes a simulation in which students assume the roles of officers who must decide on the merits of the claims made by two refugees -an exercise that has no easy answers. Finally, the lesson asks students to consider what obligation Canada and other countries have to provide asylum to refugees. What legal, moral, or ethical considerations should inform our policy? Is the number of refugee seekers a consideration? What weight, if any, should be given to the economic situation in the host country? 

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Poor/Not considered

This is a lesson where the emphasis is on critical thinking rather than action. One might assume, however, that when the opportunity for action arrives, the student's actions will be informed by the understandings gained as a result of this lesson.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Very Good

In discussing how Canada should treat refugees in the future, students will struggle with questions related to our moral and ethical obligations to help others seeking asylum in this country. 

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Very Good

Understanding is often a prerequisite to empathy. In helping the student understand what it means to be a refugee, the lesson challenges the many popular myths that are used to dismiss the refugee. A more sympathetic view of the refugee emerges when we hear their story and understand that refugees are people forced to flees their country.

Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Poor/Not considered
Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Good

The refugee issue is a local, national and global issue and one that is currently dominating the news media. Teachers may make the issue more relevant to their students by having them investigate the stories of refugees who have settled in the student's community. The local host organizations would be a valuable resource, but since many classrooms likely include refugee students, one should proceed with due diligence.  

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Very Good

The refugee hearing simulation will help students understand the current refugee policies by including the story of the S.S. St. Louis (1939), the Kamagata Maru (1914), and the Chinese Head Tax, the lesson allows students to investigate part of the Canadian historical record in responding to refugees seeking asylum in Canada. The refugee bill introduced in 2019 by the government of the day will initiate further debate over Canada's future refugee policy.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Very Good

The lesson asks students to explore several questions. Do we have an obligation to refugees? How has Canada treated its refugees? How ought Canadians treat its refugees in the future? The lesson makes clear that in responding to these questions, students must be permitted to disagree. Divergent points of view are to be encouraged. No right answers are provided. 

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good

Any discussion of Canada's past, current, and future refugee policies requires consideration of the government's will and the people's support for any given policy (Political Science); the need to meet the demands of the job market and the perceived threat to job security (Economics); the nation's historical record (History); population and migrants (Geography); our moral obligations to others (Ethics); and our concept of global citizenship (Social Studies). 

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Good

The lesson is driven by several questions regarding our obligations to refugees. The students arrive at their own answers to these questions after working out a definition of a refugee, examining classic examples of our historical record in responding to refugee seekers, participating in a panel charged with deciding the fate of two refugee claimants, and discussing the direction of future refugee policies.

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Very Good

The lesson combines a number of teaching strategies. Individual profiles of refugees are provided to help students understand why people are "forced to run", the common threads in these refugee stories and the contribution refugee have made to their host countries. A simulation in which students assume the roles of government official tasked with deciding the merits of two refugee claimants helps students arrive at a definition of the term refugee. A short film documenting the story of the S.S. St. Louis provides a look at Canada's attitude and behaviours in the past. 

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Good

A number of activities help to personalize and make real the refugee experience. "Forced to Run" enables students to position themselves in the place of those who have to leave everything behind and seek asylum elsewhere. Case studies allow students to answer the question, "Who are refugees"?. A simulation in which students must decide the merits of two refugee claimants illustrates the difficulties in deciding who should be admitted as refugees.

Teachers have the option of bringing the issue "home" by having students investigate local stories of refugees. 

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

Each of the activities require students to discuss, as a group, their understanding of what they are hearing or seeing in the case studies used to explore refugee issues. An exercise in consensus building requires students to arrive at an agreed definition of 'refugee", while another activity asks students to research and report on the story of a refugee they have chosen from UNHCR’s website on prominent refugees.

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Good

Group discussions provide teachers with an opportunities for formative evaluation in determining student understanding of and attitude towards the refugee debate. Individual student research and reporting on selected refugee case studies and student completed handouts allow for a degree of summative evaluation.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Satisfactory

The guided learning approach adopted by the lesson creates opportunities for students to hear what their classmates understand and believe about the refugee experience and our obligation to refugees seeking asylum in Canada.

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Very Good

Case studies are used to have students investigate why some people are forced to run. Individual refugee stories help students answer the question, who are refugees? and what contributions have they made to their host countries? The scenario "Who decides? examines the efficacy of two refugee claimants seeking asylum. 

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Good

The guided inquiry approach means that the teacher identifies the questions to be addressed and the framework that will help students explore those questions but within that structure students have significant opportunity to shape the discussion and debate.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.