Episode 9:

Learning from Refugees

With a burgeoning population of refugees in the Middle East, the need to teach about this humanitarian challenge is clear. But as we learn about refugees, we can also learn from them. What can their lives and choices teach us? And how can studying refugee experiences benefit our students? Joining us are Nadya Hajj, a political scientist from Wellesley College, and Rachel Barker, a middle school social studies teacher in Wayland, Massachusetts.

Guest Bios

Nadya S. Hajj

Nadya S. Hajj is a political scientist and professor in Middle East Studies and Peace and Justice Studies at Wellesley College. Her work explores how institutions develop in anarchic settings, using Palestinian refugee camps as a ground of study; since 2004, she has spent much time living in refugee camps around the Middle East. Her insights from this research are detailed in her book Protection Amid Chaos (Columbia University Press, 2016). Nadya is an expert on Middle East politics, refugee studies, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and conflict transformation.

Rachel Barker

Rachel Barker teaches Social Studies and English at Wayland Middle School in Wayland, Massachusetts.

Free Resources and Featured Books

Learn more about refugee experiences in the Middle East with these free online resources:

  • Global Refugee Crisis – resources compiled by Primary Source, assembled on Pinterest

  • Teaching About Refugees – UNHCR portal that includes a Teachers’ Toolkit and curated selection of teaching materials on refugees, asylum, migration and statelessness

  • History of Refugee Protection: Interactive Timeline from the Journal of Refugee Studies

  • We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria by Wendy Pearlman: firsthand wartime testimonies and poetic fragments from a cross-section of Syrians

  • Exit West by Mohsin Hamid: lyrical novel about the experiences of a young couple who flee a wartime siege, becoming refugees (for high school and up)

  • Refugee by Alan Gratz: novel chronicling the experiences of three refugee children and their harrowing journeys, including a Syrian boy in 2015 (for middle school)

  • Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams: picture book about how two children in a refugee camp solve a shortage problem (for elementary school)

  • We also recommend this fee-based service:

    • NaTakallam – service that allows you to connect your students to Syrian refugees for Arabic language practice

Episode Acknowledgements

Special thanks to Qatar Foundation International, which provided the seed funding and support to develop and launch this podcast and to produce this episode.

We are grateful to Nadya Hajj and Rachel Barker for sharing their ideas and expertise with our listeners.

Image Credits

Working together to help Syrian refugee children in Lebanon,” by Russell Watkins/Department for International Development, used under Creative Commons License Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). The image has been cropped.

Featured Music

  • Kim Arar,” by Wind of Anatolia, from the album Live at the 2014 Golden Festival, used with permission from Wind of Anatolia. The track has been excerpted and mixed with narrative.