Teaching About the Global Refugee Crisis


According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are at least 79.5 million forcibly displaced people in the world. Among them are almost 26 million refugees, around half of whom are under 18 years-old, and millions of stateless people. People are forced to leave their homes for a variety of reasons, including persecution, conflict, violence, and human rights violations. Today, many nations accept refugees seeking asylum, and several international organizations are dedicated to providing refugees with aid. However, the global refugee crisis has only grown over the past few decades. We have a long way to go until our world’s refugee problems are solved. Teaching about the global refugee crisis is important because not only will it change how students perceive refugees, but it will also help them better understand the significance of the crisis.


There are many resources available online for teaching students about the global refugee crisis. Teaching about the global refugee crisis requires a certain level of sensitivity, and the resources below will provide educators with the resources they need to help students understand the refugee crisis while also being conscious of the emotions that may arise in the classroom.

Lesson Plans

  1. Understanding the Global Refugee Crisis: Facing History and Ourselves provides a lesson on understanding the global refugee crisis. Through this lesson, students will learn about the refugee experience, the refugee crisis, and major refugee events in recent history along with the importance of humanizing those who are different from us. The lesson, which should take three 50-minute class periods, includes essential questions, learning objectives, an overview and context, a list of materials, four activities, and extensions. 
  2. Refugee Stories – Mapping a Crisis: The Choices Program from Brown University has put together a lesson about refugee stories and mapping the refugee crisis. In this lesson, students will consider what circumstances force refugees to leave their homes, analyze data data on refugees and IDPs and map the information, and read the account of one refugee and map their journey in order to learn more about the refugee crisis. In addition, a collection of video interviews with Syrian refugees living in Lebanon are provided for educators who want their students to hear more in-depth refugee stories that focus on a single region.
  3. UNHCR – Teaching About Refugees: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offers an abundance of resources for teaching about refugees. On this page, teaching resources on refugees, asylum, migration, and statelessness are provided for students of all ages. From these, students will learn the different terms to describe categories of displaced people, facts and figures about refugees, and more. There are also professional development resources included at the bottom to help educators best support refugee students in their classrooms.
  4. Refugee Crisis in Europe – How Should the World Respond?: ADL, the Anti-Defamation League, provides a lesson on the refugee crisis in Europe. The lesson will allow students to learn about the refugee crisis by reading, looking at photographs, and recognizing how nations worldwide are responding to the crisis. Students will also have the opportunity to brainstorm and discuss what they can do about the refugee crisis in Europe. Detailed directions and required materials are provided for each activity.


  1. Integrating the Refugee Crisis into Your Curriculum: PBS TeachersLounge has published a brief article guiding educators on how to integrate the refugee crisis into their curriculums. The author—the education director for the Global Oneness Project—interviews a seventh grade history teacher who turned her unit on the Islamic empire into a larger project by showing her students the platform’s film Welcome to Canada in order to help them better understand the current debate over refugees, particularly those coming from Muslim-majority countries. She discusses how her students responded to the film, what project they will create, and in what ways she believes the film impacted her students’ thinking. At the end of the article, links are provided for educators who want to teach this specific lesson in their classroom or view the Global Oneness Project’s collection and migration resources.
  2. Sharing the Burden of the Global Refugee Crisis: The Brookings Institution provides an article on sharing the burden of the global refugee crisis. Topics touched upon include the first Global Refugee Forum, the UN Global Compact on Refugees, and general facts and statistics on the global refugee crisis. For educators who want their students to learn about the scope of the refugee crisis along with how the UN and EU are responding to the refugee crisis should take a look at this article!
  3. How U.S. Policies Are Worsening the Global Refugee Crisis: The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace provides an article explaining how U.S. policies are worsening the global refugee crisis, specifically through its military actions, choice of partners, and defiance of international norms. Though it is very important for students to learn about the specifics of the refugee crisis and the measures nations are taking in response, it is also crucial for them to understand the aspects our country can improve upon to support refugees, and this article will help students learn just that!

Informational Sites

  1. United Nations – Refugees: The United Nations offers plenty of information on refugees. Specifically, this article discusses the UN agency that helps refugees, which is known as UNHCR; the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and its work; support for refugee camps; climate change, natural disasters, and displacement; and large movements of refugees and migrants.
  2. Rescue.org – Refugee Crisis: The International Rescue Committee provides an abundance of information on the refugee crisis. Students will have access to a briefing on the refugee crisis, news and features on the crisis, and information regarding how the organization is working to better aid refugees. 
  3. The Global Refugee Crisis – What You Need To Know: Action Against Hunger provides information that people need to know about the Global Refugee Crisis. The article explains what a refugee is, why people are displaced from their homes, key facts about the global refugee crisis, and how/where Action Against Hunger assists refugees.
  4. Amnesty International – The World’s Refugees In Numbers: Amnesty International offers information about the world’s refugees in numbers. The article describes the global solidarity crisis along with facts and figures about refugees around the world. 
  5. UNHCR – Figures at a Glance: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has put together figures at a glance regarding the refugee crisis. The information includes how many refugees there are around the world, details about the UNHCR workforce, how the UNHCR is funded, and data on forced displacement and stateless populations. Overall, the figures provided on this page will help students understand the scope of the global refugee crisis. 


Teaching about the global refugee crisis is so important because the world is witnessing the highest levels of displacement today than ever before. The most important part of this process may be helping students to view the refugee crisis on a personal level. Often when discussing global issues in the classroom, the conversation can become impersonal. Therefore, it is necessary for educators to remind students that refugees are people—people who have been forced to flee their homes for whatever reason. Sharing refugee stories and having students take the time to learn more about what it means to be a refugee is a good place to start. The resources provided will help educators to both teach their students about the global refugee crisis but also humanize it.