Students build a shelter


To get the students thinking about human migration, students were told to leave their classroom without taking any of their belongings and find shelter.

-by Gemma Manson, classroom teacher 5 White

We started the unit with an activity where the students were asked to reflect on a normal day in their lives. They closed their eyes and imagined things like how they normally wake up, where they are, what they have for breakfast, who is with them and how their school day goes. All of a sudden, an emergency alarm sounded and their teacher gave them the message that they had to leave the safe environment of their classroom right away, without taking any belongings.

Displaced people

The students were split into groups, representing a family or group of friends that have been displaced. Each group was given a selection of materials to build a shelter. The materials they were given included cardboard boxes, large bin bags and sheets of fabric. The grade 5 students effectively utilised the playground space to support them in building their shelter. Some students chose to build under the ping pong table, others used the climbing frame and some even used the benches as make-shift walls of their shelter and attached the roof with their shoes.

Eviction notice

It wasn’t all fun and games. The students did run into some hurdles along the way, which mimicked the real-life experiences of some migrants. While some groups joined forces and welcomed each other into their “homes”, other groups turned on each other, stealing supplies and sabotaging other group’s shelters.

Sometimes when groups had been successful in building their shelters, they got an eviction notice, as the government needed that land, so they had to tear down their shelter and start again in another place. On top of this, as they were living in unsafe and unhygienic conditions, some people in the groups were told that they were “sick” or “injured” and had to be removed from their group and spend some time in the medical centre.

Ria from Grade 5 Red, reflected on her experience:

'I felt really annoyed when we weren’t allowed to use our home anymore because, when we got evicted we had actually only really started to get a whole vision and idea of what we were going to do. But it also felt good because without being evicted we would have not found the other place we went (under the stairs), which was actually better than the first place. We had enough resources to build our shelter because we actually did not make any alliances, seeing that even if with alliances you have more resources, you also have more people to fit in your shelter.

One challenge we faced was that someone had stolen some of our materials. We felt really angry because we needed as much materials as we could get. Another challenge we faced was that 2 people got sick and had to stay in the hospital. One person had to stay for 5 minutes and the other had to stay for 10 minutes. Before that we got evicted right when we had a complete idea of what we were going to do and it impacted us because when the sick people came back they did not really know what we were doing.'

People have different migration stories

Since doing this activity, the students have realised that people’s migration story can vary wildly, in the factors that push them out of a country, or into another country, the journey in getting from one place to another and how they adapt and are accepted in their new country.