Today was absolutely excellent! The children started to troop in at the start of the day, carrying large backpacks and clutching special teddies. They were very excited!
They had some time to unpack their backpacks and see what the others on their table had brought. We had such a range – spare clothes, books, notepads, plasters, water, snacks, cards, wind-up torches, blankets – all sorts of things! In one of the other classes someone had even brought a small tent! After looking at everything they had some time to write up what they had brought and to list the things they would have liked to pack if they had had more time.
We paused then to read “Gervelie’s Story” which a girl in the class had brought in – it’s the story of a young girl who was forced to flee her country due to war and now actually lives very near to our school. The story really seemed to bring home the seriousness of the situations that people find themselves in, and some children mentioned the floods in Pakistan, and how those children won’t have the chance to go back home to collect anything they didn’t have time to pack.
Our year group is last for lunches this week, which was perfect – when they went in at 12.45, the teachers went out! We had coned off one of the playgrounds and proceeded to strew it with debris – tarpaulins, bricks, bamboo poles, string, bin liners, etc! We soon drew a crowd of children from other year groups wondering what on earth we were doing!
After a briefing in the hall, explaining that they were being taken to a place to build a shelter to stay for a few days and safety instructions, we headed for the doors – and saw it was chucking it down! Did we cancel it and decide to go in and do it in the hall instead? No way! Coats on and out we went. The children were soon hard at work building their shelters. They organised themselves into groups – we had explained that they would have to make sure that not only they were safe and sheltered, but that everyone in the year group had to be too – all 100 of them! So they really helped each other out, taking people into their groups and lending a hand. We even saw some trading going on! Gaffer tape being exchanged for bricks!
The children who had brought the tent were ready very quickly – they popped it up and spent the rest of the time playing cards inside! Others were ready quickly, unpacked their food supplies and settled down with a good book. A few had trouble right til the end but everyone managed to build something they could use. Every now and then, “Food Aid” arrived – a TA with a bag of cards with pictures of beans and water bottles on them. The children had to keep an eye out for her and go to fetch supplies when she arrived so they could make sure they had food and water for a few days.
It was fantastic!
Afterwards we went indoors and the children changed into dry clothes. We then had a chat about it and gave prizes for the best shelters and for those who had stocked up well on supplies. This was the time for the serious message about those people who are living through this situation for real. I really think this was a great way of getting that message across to the children.
Final thoughts on it all: “Who had fun?” EVERYONE’S hand went up!
“Why did we make you do it in the rain?” Child: “Because in real life you can’t choose the weather – in Pakistan it is flooding so it definitely would be wet for them.”
Edit: 17/7/11 This activity took place right at the start of the year, and yet the children are still talking about it now and it is remembered as a highlight of the year. Definitely an activity worth doing if you are covering any topics relating to migration or refugees – a real learning experience.