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February 13, 2020 | Abby Liu
Sixth grade students learn about the experiences of refugees through literature.
Elizabeth Rachuri knows her sixth grade students. They care about social justice and are highly motivated by their desire to make a difference in the world. They’re eager to engage with big topics, and want to be included in important conversations.
A literature study about the experience of refugees, she decided, would be a way to give students knowledge and depth about a complicated issue facing many countries. Her students are working collaboratively in teams to research refugee crises in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Sudan, and Central America/Caribbean. Then they’ll delve into a narrative non-fiction book and two historical non-fiction books that are centered around the region they’ve researched. They’ll participate in discussions. Write papers. And create presentations to share with classmates.
Along the way, students are considering essential questions: what makes someone risk everything? What influences how a refugee is received? What does it mean to welcome a stranger? While they’re learning to be more informed and engaged world citizens, students are also becoming stronger readers. The study advances literary skills such as inferring. Detecting bias. Summarizing. Understanding point of view. And building vocabulary.
At Mustard Seed School, we create change makers. We teach each child to know and care for their community and world. And that means that the pursuit of academic excellence is elevated to a higher calling, just like this literature study.
Recommended reading (Grades 5-7):
Refugee by Alan Gratz, three stories of survival that span several decades and cultures. A New York Times bestseller.