Why teach about migration?
You only have to open a newspaper or turn on the TV to find a story connected with migration but it is not just a story in the news – most of our lives are affected by migration in some way, shape or form. It might be our heritage, moving house, holidays, changes to our local area or even our daily commute. Students will probably be both affected by migration and have an opinion on it.
The Geographical Association have put together some excellent ideas to introduce the topic of migration. These activities emphasise the complexity and murky nature of the topic and outlines the difference between migration, refugees and asylum seekers. There are few right or wrong answers when it comes to migration but there are certainly a lot of opinions and myths.
One practical way to introduce the topic of migration in primary school lessons is to swap classrooms with another teacher or year group. Spend a couple of hours teaching in this new environment and then ask your children to reflect on how they felt in an unfamiliar setting- e.g how did they feel not knowing where things were or what to do? Link your classroom ‘move’ to the movement of people between different countries. This can help young children to contextualise the topic and begin to be able to relate.
Further teaching resources
- Moving People, Changing Places have produced five complete lesson plans, activity ideas and resources for secondary students
- Further resources teaching about migration from The Geographical Association
- Migration Museum Project has an education section featuring resources, stories and ideas for teaching this topic
- The Real Histories Directory is a website supporting learning about cultural diversity
- Who am I? is a ‘race awareness game’ with an app available on iTunes.
Maps, facts and figures
- Migrations Map – interactive map showing immigration and emigration around the world
- Office for National Statistics: What are migration levels like in your area?
- Pew Research: Faith on the move – a very clear interactive map showing the largest numbers of immigrants to countries as well as where they emigrate to.
Literature and film
- The Poetry Archive: Search results on ‘immigration’ – find a range of poems with audio recordings and ‘About the poet’ backgrounds
- Dirty Pretty Things (15) is a British film exposing the unpalatable side of life in the UK for illegal immigrants
- Oranges and Sunshine (15) is a British film about the forced migration of children from the UK to Australia and Canada in the 1950s and 60s. (You can also read a BBC News story on the background to this film.)
- An interesting article from the Economist discusses the economic benefits of migration and considers why some places with high levels of immigration in the UK are doing badly. KS3 and KS4 students could investigate the factors.
The following ‘performance poetry’ film clips about responses to migration/immigration could be used to start discussion in class:
Hollie McNish says this poem is “based on a guy I used to have to listen to when I worked in a clothes shop”. Warning: includes some mild swearing.
George the Poet takes on a government campaign against “illegal immigrants”, in which a mobile advertising hoarding warned ‘Go home or face arrest’.
One type of migration that has received a fair amount of attention in the UK recently is human trafficking. The Home Secretary has recently announced that the worst human trafficking offences will be punished with a life sentence. This change in the law reflects the recent increase in and horrific impacts of this crime.
Human trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of commercial sexual exploitation and forced labour. Due to its illegality, it is difficult to get accurate figures on the extent of human trafficking, but it is on the increase. In 2008, the UN estimated nearly 2.5 million people from 127 different countries were being trafficked into 137 countries around the world. Stop The Traffik has further information here: The scale of human trafficking worldwide.
Further information and resources
- Human trafficking – excellent background information from Anti-Slavery International
- Human Trafficking Foundation- All-Party Parliamentary Group on Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery
- Real life stories – three stories on the Stop the Traffik website
- Love 146 is a US-based organisation who campaign against child trafficking. They have a useful online slideshow exploring the issue as well as a discussion of common myths.
- The Salvation Army also have comprehensive information on Anti-Trafficking for schools
You could use the following days to explore issues of migration and human trafficking:
- International Mother Language Day – 21 February
- World Day Against Child Labour – 12 June
- World Refugee Day – 20 June – see also Refugee Week, in which this day falls
- Anti-Slavery Day – 18 October
- International Migrants Day – 18 December
Resources on this website
To find further teaching resources on these topics, browse through the resources in our database tagged ‘migration and refugees’:
If you have any suggestions for useful teaching resources and links around these topics, please let us know in the comments box below or email email@example.com.
The photo at the top of the page is of child migrants leaving the UK for Australia in the 1950s, by Philip Howard on flickr.com and is used under a Creative Commons licence.
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