A Message of Hope: Why hope over fear triumphs in the classroom
At Immersive Minds we run a festive campaign each year called #SeasonOfGiving to raise awareness about a local issue affecting those we live and work with. We do this in a bid to walk our talk, and to help those around us feel that we each can contribute just a little something, and yet have a hugely positive impact.
This year we are partnering with Play for Progress, a charity based in London that works with unaccompanied child refugees entering the UK, often after having endured a difficult journey similar to that described in our Refugee Crisis learning resources. We have made these learning resources free to all educators, but in exchange, we ask you to join us as #ChangeMakers and consider supporting the work of Play for Progress. This is simple to do using the Donate button on our website and leaving the hashtag #ImmersiveHumanities before downloading the resources. In this way, we hope that we can all be agents of change, creating a lasting, positive impact.
Why Teach the Refugee Crisis?
Anyone who has been watching the news lately would be inclined to agree that often it seems like the world is a very dark and dangerous place. As adults watching the news, we find strategies for contextualising and rationalising what we are seeing in the media - even still, it’s pretty scary sometimes. For children, this same experience can be utterly terrifying, and research suggests it can lead to feelings of fear, disempowerment and disconnection. A report by issued by UNICEF in 2017 suggests that children are deeply worried about real-world issues such as terrorism, poverty and poor education, and half the children surveyed reported 'feeling disenfranchised' when asked how they felt when decisions are made that affect children around the world.
Living in an age where many children have unfiltered access to media coverage at their finger tips, and with what the UN refers to as a negativity bias in the media, it is no wonder that many young people feel like the world out there is something that 'is happening', and they have no power to make any difference.
However, as educators we have the power to help children engage with these issues, and meet with them in a way that inspires feelings of hope, rather than feelings of fear and disconnection. Enabling students to explore and engages with real-world issues is a crucial part of their development as informed and active global citizens. Addressed properly, it can help develop critical thinking, reasoning, and problem solving skills, as well as a range of socio-emotional skills, empathy, negotiation, collaboration and communication.
Hope comes from Empowerment
What can we do about it as adults, parents and teachers of young people? Our philosophy is quite simple; let’s model the ways in which we can engage with the #ToughStuff and take positive action, no matter how small. In this way, we become the helpers, in Fred Rogers' renowned anecdote. Of course, this 'helping' can take many forms but by engaging, participating and feeling empowered to make decisions and share our opinions, students have hope that we can all be agents of change; that tomorrow can be different.
Our Refugee Crisis teaching resources aim to do just this. An immersive #Minecraft World enables children to experience what it would be like to wake up in their own bedroom, in their own town and be forced to flee for their lives. They make a perilous journey to a ‘safe place’, unaccompanied by adults. Throughout these lessons students have to work together, solve problems, weigh their options, negotiate, debate, make decisions and ultimately, try to survive on their own - only to find that arriving in a ‘safe place’ comes with its own challenges. We believe these resources are of fundamental importance in helping young people to understand the complex issues surrounding forced migration and refugees. They aim to illustrate how each of us can play an important role in seemingly ‘big issues’, through active participation, the choices we make, and the behaviors we choose to exhibit. They have explicit links to The Convention of Human Rights and The Rights of the Child, and tie in with exploring the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
These resources have been used with students in Sweden, Wales and France as illustrated in the video above. You can find out more about Play for Progress, how to support their work, and download our Refugee Crisis Learning resources in our web portfolio.