Lessons

Syrian Refugee Crisis Project (by James Nau, Dan Greenstone, Kevin Conlon)

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Nagham Al Jabouli, 5, waits for her father to walk her through a snowstorm to her first day of school in Canada. She is wearing snow pants, snow boots, and heavy ski mitts for the first time. Image by Robin Shulman. Canada, 2016.

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Raghda hugs a snowman

Raghda Altellawi hugs a snowman she discovers on her first day of school in Canada. Image by Robin Shulman. Canada, 2016.

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Syrian man bakes bread under train car

Makmoud Nakarch rolls out dough in order to make Syrian flatbread in his bakery under a cargo train parked at Idomeni Camp. Image by Jodi Hilton. Greece, 2016.

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Preparing for a snowstorm

Nagham Al Jabouli, 5, waits for her father to walk her through a snowstorm to her first day of school in Canada. She is wearing snow pants, snow boots, and heavy ski mitts for the first time. Image by Robin Shulman. Canada, 2016.

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charred wood from bakery along train tracks

Now all the remains from the bakery are some pieces of charred wood. Image by Jodi Hilton. Greece, 2016.

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Navigating Canada with Google Maps

Amir Al Jabouli uses audio directions from Google Maps in Arabic on his phone to navigate his family home from their first day of school in Canada. Image by Robin Shulman. Canada, 2016.

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Idomeni station, where thousands of immigrants and refugees were living in tents and train cars was empty last week after Greek authorities carried out a massive operation to evict them. Image by Jodi Hilton. Greece, 2016.

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The girls' new room

Ghena Al Jabouli, 6, in the bedroom a group of Canadian sponsors furnished and decorated for her and her sister Nagham, 5. Image by Robin Shulman. Canada, 2016.

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Clean-up crews at work after Greek authorities completed the evacuation operation of Idomeni Camp and began a massive clean-up in order to open the railroad. Image by Jodi Hilton. Greece, 2016.

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Teddy bears from Syria

Nagham Al Jabouli, 5, and her sister Ghena, 6, hug their teddy bears, some of the only possessions that have traveled with them from their lives in Syria. Image by Robin Shulman. Canada, 2016.

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Makmoud Nakarch prepares the dough into small ball before rolling out the dough and cooking it on a flat plan over a wood fire. Image by Jodi Hilton. Greece, 2016.

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Syrian and Canadian families

Raghda Altellawi and Amir Al Jabouli and their daughters Ghena and Nagham pose with their Canadian sponsors, Ashley Hilkewich (holding daughter Aria), Ali Khan, and Mallory Hilkewich. Image by Robin Shulman. Canada, 2016.

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Abdulrahman from Aleppo, Syria, helps bake Syrian bread under a cargo car parked at Idomeni station. Image by Jodi Hilton. Greece, 2016.

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Helping is contagious

Ashley Hilkewich and Ali Khan were inspired to sponsor a Syrian family for resettlement in Canada when they heard that their housekeeper, Kathy McIlroy, had helped raise $20,000 as part of a sponsorship group. Image by Robin Shulman. Canada, 2016.

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View of train tracks after Greek authorities completed the evacuation. Image by Jodi Hilton. Greece, 2016.

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Learning English in school

Ghena Al Jabouli, 6, is learning English in a specialized classroom for newcomers. Image by Robin Shulman. Canada, 2016.

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View of train tracks after Greek authorities completed the evacuation. Image by Jodi Hilton. Greece, 2016.

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Reunited after school

Ghena Al Jabouli, 6, greets her sister Nagham, 5, with a kiss at the end of a day of school. Image by Robin Shulman. Canada, 2016.

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Studying English at home

Raghda Altellawi studies English vocabulary words at home in the evenings. Image by Robin Shulman. Canada, 2016.

The Big Idea:

As we conclude our first semester, current global events provide us with an important and valuable opportunity to evaluate many of the dynamics we’ve discussed so far this year.  Specifically, the Syrian refugee crisis and the response of the United States enables us to consider governmental decisionmaking, the human response to geographic displacement, and the assorted issues that drive the debate.

The Task:

Following classwork to explore and analyze the refugee crisis as it unfolds, each of you will provide your recommendation for the number of refugees that the United States should accept. There will be three parts of this process for which you will be accountable:

  1. Decide on the number of Syrian refugees you believe that United States should accept.

  2. Provide a written rationale for your number that is no more than one page in length (double spaced, about 300 words).

  3. During the final period, you will present your number and engage in a discussion with your classmates about the rationale by which they determined their numbers.

The Details:

Choosing your number:  You will be asked to explain your number, both in writing and in conversation, so make your selection carefully.  It should be a number that you can stand behind and believe in, based on the work we have done in class.

When coming up with your number, consider the following criteria:

  1. Total number of refugees
  2. Economic ability of countries accepting refugees to pay for resettlement
  3. Security risk of refugees
  4. Relative population size of the countries accepting the refugees
  5. Proximity of each country to Syria (and other origin countries)
  6. Culpability (guilt) of each country in causing the crisis
  7. Difficulty of assimilating (see Ross Douthat)
  8. Other factors?

The written rationale: Using evidence and reasoning drawn from our course materials, provide a rationale for the number you have chosen.  It is critical that you use specific support from our readings.  This rationale should be clear and thoughtful, but also concise, running no longer than one page, double spaced.

The discussion during the final period:  During the final period, the class will be divided in half.  Each group of 9 students will engage in the activity separately, so you will only come for one of the two hours set aside for the final.  Upon arrival, students will share their number and then engage in a discussion about how they arrived at their number.  During this discussion, students are encouraged to listen to one another and may change their position if they are persuaded to do so.  Blind defense of your choice or attempts to “win” are discouraged.  The goal is thoughtful discussion.

In addition to the Pulitzer journalist sources listed on the right, below is our complete list of the sources we are reading for this project:

Vox’s “Syria’s Civil War: A Brief History” by Zach Beauchamp

The New Yorker’s “Ten Borders” by Nicholas Schmidle

Vox’s “Europe’s Refugee Crisis, Explained” by Amanda Taub

CNN’s “Migrant vs. Refugee: What’s the Difference?” by Michael Martinez

The New York Times’ “A Family Swept Up in the Migrant Tide” by Anemona Hartocollis

The Atlantic’s “Can Terrorists Really Infiltrate the Syrian Refugee Program?” by Russell Berman

The Washington Post’s “Refuge,” an interactive resource on “18 stories from the Syrian exodus”

The National Interest’s “Who is More Responsible For the Rise of ISIS?  Bush or Obama?” by Robert W. Merry

The New York Times’ “Germany’s Small Towns Feel the Cost of Europe’s Migrant Crisis” by Alison Smale

Deutsche Welle’s “What Helping Refugees Costs Germany” by Klaus Ulrich

The New York Times’ “Presidential Candidates on Allowing Syrian Refugees In the United States” by Thomas Kaplan and Wilson Andrews

Resources from the Choices Program at Brown University:

Handout - Mapping One Refugee’s Journey

Educator Notes: 

Here is the link to the project instructions. This project is a collaborative work with my 9th grade Themes in World History colleagues James Nau and Dan Greenstone. 

On the instruction sheet that I've linked above, we've laid out the day to day reading shedule. Our classes meet for 55 minutes four times a week. We used 15 to 20 minutes of some classes to read out loud or silently, and to discuss. I also assigned students to write short paragraph responses to questions for four out of the eight classes this project took. New to this unit are the Pulizter sources. I will work with students in class on the Robin Shulman article and accompanying photos and questions. I am looking forward to using her work to increase student empathy for the plight of the Syrian refugees she introduces us to.

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