Subjects go hand in hand

23rd June 2000 at 01:00
Geography and citizenship can easily work side by side in the classroom to provide an interesting, stimulating scheme of work.

These activities are based on a scheme of work developed with the London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames Pupil Parliament. Every year, each primary school elects one girl and one boy from Year 5 to become their Members of Pupil Parliament (MPPs), who meet up at the council chambers in Twickenham, and decide on a topic they will work on in Year 6. For 1999-2000, with the conflict in Serbia at its height, their topic was raising awareness of the plight of refugees within the borough.

Refugees hotspots map A brainstorming session to start with helps establish pupils' prior knowledge and understanding about who a refugee or asylum seeker is, where they may come from, why have they had to flee their country or home and what challenges they may face.

These geographical enquiries form a basis for providing pupils with definitions and facts, establishing the differences between a refugee and an asylum seeker, and identifying the size of the problem globally.

In paired or group work, pupils can be given either a country or geographical area (eg, Western Africa, Eastern Europe) to research using maps, atlases, encyclopedias, CD-Roms, publications such as Global Eye or Refugees, and the internet (see box for contacts and websites).

They may use these resources to produce fact posters, art posters, factual writing, poetry, verbal presentations, and graphs and charts. Pupils are likely to be amazed at the scale and magnitude of refugee crises, and begin to grasp what makes people into refugees: natural disasters, and political, religious and racial strife.

On the run: fleeing your coutry This empathy-based activity stimulates thoughts quite acutely, and can lead to open, emotive discussion. Pose the scenario that you have 15 minutes to pack a suitcase with no more than 10 items: what would you take and what would you leave behind? Pupils can write their own list, discuss their lists in pairs or groups and follow it up with a whole-class discussion of what is important to us personally. Point out that some refugees do not even have 15 minutes, or the luxury of a suitcase.

Arriving in a foreign environment: what it is like to be a refugee An original Richmond workshop involved listening to first-hand accounts of the challenges faced by refugee children who were attending schools in the borough. They talked about about how they came to be in the United Kingdom, how they had settled in and the problems they had encountered. These included not having seen or heard from parents, speaking no English, not at first knowing anyone in the UK, and being abused and victimised at their new schools. This helped bring home how lucky it is to live in a settled and stable economy.

A Refugee Charter: making refugees welcome in our schools As a follow-up to the previous activity, pupils can draw up a charter or, in conjunction with the school council, devise a whole-school policy on making refugees welcome in our schools. Pupils put themselves in the shoes of refugees and say what they would like if they were to attend a new school in a foreign, non-English-speaking school.

Fuller details of the workshops and examples of work produced by the Richmond members of Pupil Parliament will be on the new Global Eye Primary website in September.

Adrian Corke teaches at Stanley junior school, Teddington

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