Lesson Plans

Finding Home: A Multimedia Exploration of Syrian Refugee Families

finding-home-time-lynsey-addario-airplane-horizontal-3x2-1.jpg

Syrian refugees Taimaa Abzali and her husband Muhanned Abzali, look out the window with a mix of fear and excitement as they see Estonia from the air for the first time. Image by Lynsey Addario. Estonia, 2017.

Syrian refugees Taimaa Abzali and her husband Muhanned Abzali, look out the window with a mix of fear and excitement as they see Estonia from the air for the first time. Image by Lynsey Addario. Estonia, 2017.

Objectives:

Students will be able to:

  • analyze the causes of the refugee crisis and what life is like for Syrian refugees
  • evaluate options for responding to the refugee crisis in Europe
  • integrate multimedia information to develop a full understanding of the topic and identify how each media type contributes to their understanding

Warm-up:

1. What is a refugee? What can cause a person to become a refugee?

2. One country that many people have fled to escape danger in recent years, becoming refugees, is Syria. What do you know about Syria? Why are many people trying to leave?

3. When refugees leave their home country, what are they looking for?

4. Take two minutes to discuss with a partner: Should countries be required to grant asylum to refugees? If yes, why and under what circumstances? If no, why not?

Introducing the Lesson:

Syria has been fighting a civil war (a war in which two or more groups fight one another within the same country) for the last seven years, displacing millions of people within the country and forcing millions more to flee across the border, seeking asylum in neighboring countries and in Europe. To get a sense of the scale of the problem, examine the graphic from TIME below.

Note that this graphic was created in 2015. As of December 2017, the number of Syrian refugees was closer to 5.4 million, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Today, we are going to learn more about the lives of Syrian refugees after they flee the country. We will be reading and viewing excerpts from a story by Aryn Baker, Lynsey Addario, and Francesca Trianni, three journalists who spent a year reporting on four Syrian refugee women living in Greece for TIME. In this lesson, we will focus on the story of one woman named Taimaa and her family.

Introducing Resource 1: “Children of No Nation

1. Read the following paragraph for an introduction:

More than 1,000 Syrian refugees have given birth in Greece this year, and since September, TIME has followed four of them. These are mothers to children of no nation, conceived in war and gestated in flight. Through video, social media, photography and the written word, TIME will spend the next year documenting the babies' first year of life. Wrapped in donated blankets and secondhand onesies, they will likely spend at least the first months of their new lives in hastily built refugee camps that offer little protection from winter's freezing temperatures and summer's swarms of mosquitoes. They are between worlds. In a world teeming with unknowns, about the only thing certain in their lives is that they probably won't see their parents' home country until they are adults, if ever.

2. Why do you think these journalists chose to focus their story about the refugee crisis on new mothers?

3. What does “children of no nation” mean?

4. What words and images come to mind when you hear the word “refugee”? What do you think life was like for Syrian refugees before they fled? What do you think life is like once they arrive in Europe?

5. Watch the video below:

6. Read the following excerpt from “Children of No Nation”:

Taimaa Abazli, a former music teacher, is so defeated by what appears to be postpartum depression that she says she doesn't even care where she goes, as long as "it's not here." Greece, already one of Europe's poorest countries, has some 60,000 refugees now awaiting settlement. Many are still living in primitive camps, with no water for washing, sporadic electricity and no heat, despite freezing temperatures.

"When I was young, I expected to have a happy life, with a nice house, and to get an education," says Taimaa, who worries that her 2-year-old son is starting to think that a tent is his real home. "I didn't expect any of the things that are happening to me. It's an ugly life."

Think of a refugee, and you might picture someone destitute, living on the fringes of an already disorganized society, perhaps someone who was homeless or even stateless to begin with. But the Syrian refugees in Greece are by and large middle-class and well educated. They're accustomed to first-world medical care. Many had good jobs and nice homes before war tore their country apart, sending them fleeing.

7. So far, how are your predictions aligning with what you are learning? What is similar to and different from what you imagined?

Introducing Resource 2: “Heln’s First Year

Now we are going to look at a different way of telling Taimaa’s story. While you explore this multimedia story, consider:

  • What new information are you learning about who refugees are and what their lives are like?
  • Why did the journalists choose to tell the story of the refugee crisis in this way?

1. As a class, explore the story. Pairs of students should take turns reading Taimaa and Francesca’s text message exchanges.

2. Discuss as a class:

  • What new information have you learned about who refugees are and what their lives are like?
  • As a class, make a list of all the types of media used in “Heln’s First Year.” What is the unique contribution of each type of media to the story?
  • Do you think most news stories you read/watch take a year to report? Why do you think these journalists chose to report on this story for a whole year?
  • In what way(s) is Taimaa telling her own story in “Children of No Nation” and in “Heln’s First Year”? How is the presentation of her voice different in the two stories? What is the effect?

Activity:

1. Individually or in pairs, make a list of challenges you might face under each of the following circumstances:

  • You were born a “child of no nation,” to refugee parents soon after their arrival in a new country.
  • You were forced to flee to another country because of war as a student of your present age.
  • You were forced to flee to another country because of war as a young parent the age of Taimaa.

2. Share your lists with a partner or another pair.

3. From our introduction, we learned that over 5 million Syrians have fled for surrounding countries and for Europe since 2011. From the TIME stories, we learned about what life is like for refugees once they have arrived in Europe. Now, revisit your conversation from our warm-up:

  • Should countries be required to grant asylum to refugees? If yes, why and under what circumstances? If no, why not?
  • Is anything about your answer now different from your answer at the beginning of class? Why or why not?

4. Brainstorm:

  • Aside from granting asylum, what can countries do to help refugees?
  • What can individuals do to help refugees?

Extension Activities:

Option 1. Put yourself in the journalist’s shoes: Construct your own imagined conversation with Taimaa, asking questions and writing responses to her text messages in “Heln’s First Year.” (For Taimaa’s side of the conversation, use only her own words.)

Option 2. Read “Children of No Nation” in full. Write a one page response to one of the following prompts:

  • Choose one woman whose story is told in “Children of No Nation” (Suad, Nour, Illham, or Taimaa). Explain: How is your life similar to and different from the life of the woman you selected?
  • In “Children of No Nation,” Nour says, “My happiness [is] incomplete.” In “Heln’s First Year,” Taimaa says the same thing. Consider the context of these quotes. What do the two women mean?

Option 3. Research organizations that work with refugees in your area and contact them to ask a staff member to speak to your class in person or via Skype. Share your ideas about what countries and individuals can do to help refugees with them to get their feedback and additional ideas. Prepare questions about their work and about refugees in your community.

Option 4. Email education@pulitzercenter.org to set up a Skype visit with a journalist who reports on refugee issues. Share your ideas about what countries and individuals can do to help refugees with them to get their feedback and additional ideas. Explore one of their stories in advance of the visit and prepare questions about it and about how they reported it.

Educator Notes: 

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.3

Analyze in detail how a key individual, event, or idea is introduced, illustrated, and elaborated in a text (e.g., through examples or anecdotes).

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.6.7

Integrate information presented in different media or formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively) as well as in words to develop a coherent understanding of a topic or issue.

Lesson Builder Survey