Journey of a Refugee Film by Year 5/6 Students

Screenshots below:

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The above short film was created by a group of year 5 students who were interested in researching what the words ‘refugee’ and ‘asylum seeker’ meant.

We inquired into this project together years ago when I was still studying to be a teacher. I had never done anything like this before but I was adamant that whatever we learned or created, we needed to share it.

In short:

We started with reflecting on their current research. What were our understandings and what did we need to know?

I felt that I wanted the group to really develop a seriousness and empathy towards to topic so we also started by looking at ‘The Arrival’ as a text, analysing different illustrations. To also warm up their drama skills we used the illustrations as prompts for freeze frame drama exercises.

I then arranged for speakers to come in:  a community worker and a girl she knew who came to Australia as a refugee when she was 5 years old from Sudan . The girl was still a teenager and spoke a lot about the issues she faced in Australia – not fitting in, bullying and culture shock. THIS experience saw a huge change in a few students and they became very serious and respectful of the topic. There was now a face to the word ‘refugee’ and they had a more emotional perspective that they couldn’t find before.

After more research we began creating an outline for what we wanted to communicate and share to the rest of the school/ world. What was the Journey of a Refugee? What perspectives had we learnt about that others might not know?

Using shadow puppets and an overhead projector, we felt it was building a respectful way to approach the topic. We didn’t want to create a stereotype of a refugee. Also the overhead projector meant we could really be creative with mime, sets and props.

Once finished, we presented the film at Assembly to the whole school. We also showed other schools and sparked other inquiries into the same issue. Now I feel it is also my duty to reflect and share with other teachers in hope that you will get ideas too. I am also very happy to answer questions or connect and collaborate.


A few important points:

  • I recommend not shying away from sensitive topics with students just because you aren’t sure yourself. Drama can be a way to explore things sensitively too.
  • Topics of a serious nature need to be explored seriously and given time. These issues are important.
  • I can’t recommend enough the power of connecting with an actual person. Whether though a visiting speaker or a skype call. It is your primary resource!
  •  I also recommend utilising related literature  to get the most out of the experience (I used Shaun Tan’s ‘The Arrival’ and we analysed individual illustrations)
  • Using Shadow puppets/ body shadows is amazing. If performing to a class it also allows more shy personalities to really have a go because the audience can only see their shadow (it actually makes a difference in drama to hide your face sometimes).