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May 26th, 2009
Seeking a Home Away from Home: Exploring the Plight of Refugees from Iraq and Beyond
Lesson Overview

Funding for the educational materials was provided by The Overbrook Foundation.

For a printer-friendly version of this lesson click here: (PDF) (RTF)


TIME ALLOTMENT: Three 45-minute class periods

OVERVIEW: Using segments from the PBS program: Wide Angle: Iraqi Exodus, students learn about refugee crises throughout history. In the Introductory Activity, students explore terms such as “refugees” and “internally displaced persons” and examine which countries currently supply and host the greatest number of refugees. In the Learning Activities, students explore the Iraqi refugee crisis and the challenges faced by both refugees and host countries. Students also explore UN and US policies towards refugees. In the Culminating Activity, students conduct research about a refugee population from the past and explore the roles organizations and governments have played in refugee crises.

Students will be able to:
o Define the terms “refugee,” “internally displaced persons,” “aliens,” “asylum seekers,” “economic migrants,” “returnees” and “stateless persons.”
o List current refugee source and host countries.
o Describe the refugee crisis in Iraq and challenges that its refugees face.
o Describe challenges faced by host countries during refugee crises.
o Discuss UN and US policies toward refugees since 1948.
o Discuss one refugee group from the past and provide details about the group’s refugee crisis.

New York State Standards:

Standard 2: World History
Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of major ideas, eras, themes, developments, and turning points in world history and examine the broad sweep of history from a variety of perspectives.
• Key Idea SS2.1: The study of world history requires an understanding of world cultures and civilizations, including an analysis of important ideas, social and cultural values, beliefs, and traditions. This study also examines the human condition and the connections and interactions of people across time and space and the ways different people view the same event or issue from a variety of perspectives.
o Performance Indicator SS2.C.1A: Students define culture and civilization, explaining how they developed and changed over time. Investigate the various components of cultures and civilizations including social customs, norms, values, and traditions; political systems; economic systems; religions and spiritual beliefs; and socialization or educational practices.
o Performance Indicator SS2.C.1B: Students understand the development and connectedness of Western civilization and other civilizations and cultures in many areas of the world and over time.
o Performance Indicator SS2.C.1E: Students analyze changing and competing interpretations of issues, events, and developments throughout world history.
• Key Idea: SS2.4: The skills of historical analysis include the ability to investigate differing and competing interpretations of the theories of history, hypothesize about why interpretations change over time, explain the importance of historical evidence, and understand the concepts of change and continuity over time.
o Performance Indicator SS2.C.4A: Students identify historical problems, pose analytical questions or hypotheses, research analytical questions or test hypotheses, formulate conclusions or generalizations, raise new questions or issues for further investigation.
o Performance Indicator SS2.C.4B: Students interpret and analyze documents and artifacts related to significant developments and events in world history.

National Standards:

Historical Thinking Standards for Grades 5-12
• Standard 3: Historical Analysis and Interpretation: The student engages in historical analysis and interpretation. Therefore, the student is able to:
o Analyze cause-and-effect relationships bearing in mind multiple causation including (a) the importance of the individual in history; (b) the influence of ideas, human interests, and beliefs; and (c) the role of chance, the accidental and the irrational.
o Draw comparisons across eras and regions in order to define enduring issues as well as large-scale or long-term developments that transcend regional and temporal boundaries.
National Standards in World History for Grades 5-12
• World History/ Era 9 Standard 2C: The student understands how liberal democracy, market economies, and human rights movements have reshaped political and social life.
Therefore, the student is able to assess the progress of human and civil rights around the world since the 1948 U.N. Declaration of Human Rights. [Formulate a position or course of action on an issue.]
• World History/ Era 9 Standard 2D: The student understands major sources of tension and conflict in the contemporary world and efforts that have been made to address them.
Therefore, the student is able to analyze the causes, consequences, and moral implications for the world community of mass killings or famines in such places as Cambodia, Somalia, Rwanda, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. [Marshal evidence of antecedent circumstances]
• World History/ Era 9/ Standard 3A: The student understands major global trends since World War II. Therefore the student is able to:
o Compare causes, consequences, and major patterns of international migrations in the late 20th century with world population movements of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th. [Draw comparisons across eras and regions]
o Assess the degree to which both human rights and democratic ideals and practices have been advanced in the world during the 20th century. [Formulate historical questions]

Wide Angle: Iraqi Exodus, selected segments

1. The Iraqi Refugee Crisis
An overview of the Iraqi refugee crisis.

2. Coping with the Crisis
A look at the reality of refugee life and thoughts about how to handle the crisis in the region.

3. Going Home?
A look at refugees’ attempts to return home to Iraq.

Access the streaming video segments for this lesson at the Video Segments Page.


The UN Refugee Agency/ Regional Office: Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific
This website, which could be helpful in both the Introductory and Learning Activities, provides definitions for “refugee” and related terms, as well as a description of UN actions concerning refugees and the obligations they place on refugees and countries.

For the Introductory Activity:

The UN Refugee Agency/ Regional Office: Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and the South Pacific
This page includes definitions for “refugee” and related terms.
USA for the UN Refugee Agency/ What is a Refugee?
This page on the UN Refugee Agency’s website provides very clear and concise definitions for the words “internally displaced person,” “refugee” and other related terms.
US Department of State/ Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration
This glossary, on the US Department of State’s website provides official definitions for “refugee” and related terms.
The UN Refugee Agency/ Statistics
This section of the UN Refugee Agency website provides data about refugees, asylum seekers, returned refugees, internally displaced and stateless people. This site features a variety of reports, including the 2009 Global Trends Report:
US Department of Homeland Security/Office of Immigration Statistics
This site provides current immigration statistics, including information about refugees and asylum seekers. The lesson cites US refugee stats from 2007 to 2009, located on this site at:

For the Learning Activities:

Human Rights First/ Iraqi Refugee Crisis: Timeline

This timeline on the Human Rights First website chronicles the US government’s response to the Iraqi refugee crisis.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

This page on the United Nations’ website features the full text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN in 1948.
Refugee Protection Act of 2010
This page features information about the Refugee Protection Act, proposed in 2010.

For the class:
• Computers with internet access
• Computer, projection screen and speakers (for class viewing of online video segments)
• A world map

Before the Lesson
Prior to teaching this lesson, you will need to:

Preview all of the video segments and websites used in the lesson.

Download the video clips used in the lesson to your classroom computer(s) or prepare to watch them using your classroom’s Internet connection.
Bookmark all websites that you plan to use in the lesson on each computer in your classroom. Using a social bookmarking tool such as or diigo (or an online bookmarking utility such as portaportal) will allow you to organize all the links in a central location.
If you do not have a map of the world in your classroom, locate one on the internet to use during the lesson. One possible map that you can use is:

Proceed to Lesson Activities.

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