When ninth grade English teacher Lauren Fardig realized her students lacked basic knowledge about the realities of war and refugees, she decided to set aside the usual curriculum and take her students on a virtual journey to the Middle East.
This trip began with students using maps and online research to learn more about the region. Throughout the five-week course students discussed haunting photographs of real-life refugees and wrote poetry to try to capture their experiences. The journey also involved a lesson called "Packing Your Bag," where students were allotted five minutes to pack their most precious belongings.
Even though the Middle East itself is far, for many of Farding's students, the refugee experience is painfully close.
"We have a lot of students who are homeless. A lot of my kids live in shelters right now. A lot of them are in the foster care system. They understand more than a lot of high school students what it feels like to be displaced, to not know where their next meal going to come from, to not necessarily feel safe in their home environments, and having to get yourself through a big crisis," she said.
"It's the people that are really suffering from the war. It's the everyday people that are trying to go to work and go to school and do the same things that we're doing here who are really, really being impacted by this." Lauren Fardig, teacher.
"I'm lucky to be here. I'm lucky to be in my country, in my home, with my family." Ramon Raldiris, student.
"There's no war outside my door. I'm fortunate for that, I'm fortunate to have my family with me, to have support, have a roof over my head, be able to sleep at night." Ramon Raldiris, student.
1. Name five countries in the Middle East.
2. What is a refugee?
3. Why are there so many refugees in this region?
1. Why did Ms. Fardig take her ninth-grade students on a virtual journey to the Middle East?
2. Do you think this virtual journey helped her ninth-graders have a better understanding of the realities of war and refugees?
3. What ten items would you pack if you had to flee from danger in the middle of the night?