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Grades 6-8
Overview:
This lesson draws from the documentary film God Grew Tired of Us to teach students about concepts of migration, cultural mosaics, sense of place, and forces of cooperation and conflict among communities. A National Geographic Films/LBS Production presented by Newmarket Films, God Grew Tired of Us tells a moving story of young people overcoming incredible challenges and struggling to improve their own lives and those of family and friends left behind. Viewers are inspired by the protagonists’ perseverance in the face of adversity, and they are left to ponder the relative merits of U.S. and Dinka culture. In this lesson, students will learn the Lost Boys of Sudan, a group of youth who fled civil war in their native country, spent a decade growing up in a Kenyan refugee camp, and were eventually resettled in the United States. Students will map the Lost Boys’ migration journey. They will then discuss the challenges the Lost Boys faced while adapting to life in the United States and trying to maintain their cultural identities as Dinka, as well as their efforts to improve their own lives and those of their families and friends who remain in Africa. Using the pedagogy of service-learning (see Service Learning Guide ), students can engage with community members to explore historical or contemporary interactions between immigrant groups and the local, regional, or national community, as well as impacts the immigrant groups have had on the cultural landscape.
Connections to the Curriculum:
Geography, social studies, civics, ELL, behavioral studies
Connections to the National Geography Standards:
Standard 1: How to use maps and other geographic representations, tools, and technologies to acquire, process, and report information from a spatial perspective
Standard 6: How culture and experience influence people's perceptions of places and regions
Standard 9: The characteristics, distribution, and migration of human population on Earth’s surface
Standard 10: The characteristics, distribution, and complexity of Earth's cultural mosaics
Standard 17: How to apply geography to interpret the past
Time:
Introduction and Activity 1 (Mapping the Migration Journey of the Lost Boys and Girls): 45 minutes
Activity 2 (Cultural Identity and Difference): 45 minutes
Activity 3 (Community Migration Connections): 45 minutes for preparation, with additional time for independent/group action and class reflection

Materials Required:
Objectives:
Students will
  • Learn about and map the migration journey of the Lost Boys (and Girls) from their homeland in southern Sudan to their eventual resettlement in the United States
  • Learn about the concepts of cultural identity and cultural difference, and discuss the challenges the Lost Boys faced while adapting to life in the United States and trying to maintain their cultural identities as Dinka
  • Apply their knowledge and understanding of migration and cultural identity/difference to a local context by engaging with community members to map the migration patterns of people who immigrated into their community or region, and identifying how the immigrant groups have interacted with and/or left their mark on the community or region, and sharing this information with the school and/or community
Geographic Skills:
Asking Geographic Questions
Acquiring Geographic Information
Organizing Geographic Information
Answering Geographic Questions
Analyzing Geographic Information

S u g g e s t e d   P r o c e d u r e
Opening:
Ask students if they’re familiar with Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, characters in the J.M. Barrie novel Peter Pan who formed a family and took care of each other in Never-Never Land. Explain that there is a group of young men who ran away from a terrible civil war and eventually found homes in the United States. Relief workers called them the "Lost Boys" after the characters in the J.M. Barrie novel, and the media picked up on this moniker; the group is now known collectively as "The Lost Boys of Sudan."

A new film called God Grew Tired of Us tells the story of three of these young men, and the class will learn about the Lost Boys of Sudan as an example of human migration and cultural identity/cultural difference. Students will then research the immigrant groups who have settled in the local community or region, map the migration patterns, explain how the immigrants have left their mark on and/or interacted with the community or region, and share this information with the school and/or community. If possible, have students watch the entire film before beginning the following activities, which use clips from the film (available online) as discussion-starters.

Development:
Activity 1: Mapping the Migration Journey of the Lost Boys and Girls Introduce or review relevant vocabulary , including migration , immigrant , emigrant , refugee , and resettlement . You may wish to distribute copies of the National Geographic Xpeditions: Human Migration Guide (Grades 6-8) .

Show students (either as a handout or projected in the classroom) the National Geographic map of Sudan "A Nation Divided," pointing out the boundary between northern and southern Sudan, as well as where the Dinka homelands are.

Show students the film clip From Southern Sudan to Northeastern United States . Ask students to answer the following questions:

  • Why did the Lost Boys have to run away from their homes?
  • Why couldn’t they stay in Ethiopia?
  • What was life like in the refugee camp?
  • What new things did they experience on the journey from Kenya to the United States?
Distribute the student handout Migration Journey of the Lost Boys and Girls , along with outline maps of Sudan, Africa, the world, and the United States. Part 1: On the maps of Sudan, Africa, and the world, have students mark the routes the Lost Boys took on their migration journey from Sudan to the United States. Students may work individually or in small groups, depending on classroom context. Part 2: On a map of the United States, have students write the number of Lost Boys who migrated to each state, based on the table in the handout. Then have students make a choropleth map with seven classes of data (see instructions on the student handout Migration Journey of the Lost Boys and Girls ). (A choropleth map is one that uses colors or shading to represent different quantities or values. For more information on choropleth maps see the National Geographic Xpeditions: Mapmaking Guide (Grades 6–8). Students may also find the National Geographic Xpeditions Activity: Tell a Migration Story . . . with Maps helpful.) Optional: As a class, discuss the activity "Did You Notice . . . ?" Explain that Mark Bixler, author of The Lost Boys Of Sudan: An American Story Of The Refugee Experience , gathered figures for boys per state from the U.S. State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration ; the other data (3,800 Lost Boys entered U.S. since the year 2000) came from other sources.
  • Which states received the most Lost Boys for resettlement?
  • Did any Lost Boys settle in your state or nearby states?
Activity 2: Cultural Identity and Difference
Introduce or review relevant vocabulary , including culture , cultural identity , cultural landscape , and cultural marker . Again, you may wish to refer to the National Geographic Xpeditions: Human Migration Guide (Grades 6-8) . Ask students to characterize "American culture" (Possible answers: Markers: music, food, fashion, language/slang; Values: individualism, personal rights, innovation, democracy, etc.)

Show students the film clips Sense of Place & Community , Cultural Differences , and Responsibility & Leadership . Ask students to reflect on and discuss the following questions:

  • What have you learned about Dinka culture? What markers are representative of Dinka culture? Of American culture? What values do the Lost Boys hold? How do those values compare with your own? (Possible answers: Markers: music, dance, food, clothing, language; Values: education, community, family, faith, hard work, etc.)
  • What questions and fears do the Lost Boys have about life in the U.S.? What questions and fears would you have if you were moving to a new place? What differences do you see between Dinka culture and American culture? What are some of the challenges the Lost Boys encounter? How do they adapt to life in the United States (think in terms of both assimilation and acculturation? How do you think you would adapt to life in a new country? (Possible answers: Questions related to technology, cultural practices, food; Challenges: learning new culture, how to get around in U.S., finding jobs, pursuing education, making friends; Assimilation: clothing, improving English/adopting American slang, not holding hands in public or traveling in groups; Acculturation: eating traditional food, song, dance, attending reunions, etc.)
  • What sense of responsibility do the Lost Boys feel toward each other and toward their families and friends still in Africa? In what ways are they trying to improve their own lives and those of their families and friends? What can you do to make a difference in your own community? (Possible answers: Sending money back to Africa, working to bring family members to U.S.; See education and hard work as keys to future, demonstrating/advocating for awareness/change in situation in Sudan, desire to return to Africa to be business and community leaders, etc.; Create fliers for non-native English speaking parents to announce that volunteers can help them enroll their children in school, research and fund-raise for books and supplies for ESL students, etc.)

Closing:
Activity 3: Community Migration Connections (Note: This activity is adapted from Activity 4, "Migration: A Community Perspective" in the National Geographic Xpeditions Lesson: Human Migration: The Story of the Cultural Landscape (Grades 6–8) .

Discuss the concepts of service-learning and civic engagement (see Service Learning Guide ). Explain to students that they will apply their knowledge and understanding of migration and cultural identity/difference to a local context by engaging with community members to map the migration patterns of people who immigrated into their community or region and identifying how the immigrant groups have interacted with and/or left their mark on the community or region, and sharing this information with the school and/or community.

Have small groups of students investigate their community’s migration story. Depending on the depth of the available information, have students research the role one or all of the major immigrant groups of the past or present has played in the community’s history. Students should conduct initial research using historical documents, newspaper articles, photographs, and other artifacts. Some possible places to look include the public library, a town or city historian, local museums, newspaper archives, the phone book (to identify ethnic restaurants, religious institutions, clubs, etc.) and the Internet. You may wish to use the checklist on the student handout National Geographic Xpeditions: Tell a Migration StoryAbout Your Community .

Divide students into three groups, and have each group complete one of the following activities to create primary source community records of their own:

  • Conduct interviews (PDF, Adobe Reader required) with community members and organizations that could share information about patterns of movement to and from the community, personal histories, and ways in which immigrants have contributed to or changed the community. For more ideas, see the National Geographic Xpeditions Activity: Tell a Migration StoryWith Interviews .
  • Photograph (PDF, Adobe Reader required) (or sketch if cameras are not available) people and places that represent migration patterns or cultural markers in the community. Examples could include an ethnic community, such as a “Chinatown,” ethnic grocery stores, a religious community center, street signs, architectural styles, signs in other languages, people at a traditional festival, etc. Have students brainstorm locations and people first. Be sure to get permission to take photographs in businesses, libraries, etc. Then have students label photographs with the dates, places, and short descriptions of the migrations represented by each photo. For more ideas, see the National Geographic Xpeditions Activity: Tell a Migration StoryWith Photos .
  • Create a map (PDF, Adobe Reader required) depicting the migration patterns into and within the community. Students should include: the path people have taken to and from the community (to/from other cities, states, countries); explanatory text; and the dates of the migration being represented. For more ideas, see the National Geographic Xpeditions Activity: Tell a Migration StoryWith Maps .
      When students have completed their research, have them create and share posters or PowerPoint presentations that depict the migration story of their community and reflect how immigrant groups have interacted with and/or left their mark on the community. Arrange for students to present their work to officials from the school and/or community (e.g., PTA, school board, town council, or civic organizations such as Rotary or Kiwanis). Ask the local school, library, museum, community center, or city hall to exhibit student projects.

Suggested Student Assessment:
Student projects and presentations should be evaluated based on students’ understanding of the key concepts of migration, the quality of their research, and the synthesis of the components into a clear portrait of the community, both visually and orally. In their presentations, students should be able to convey their understanding of the concepts related to migration, patterns of migration, and the effect that migration has had on the cultural makeup of their community. The stages of preparation, action, and reflection should all be considered as part of the evaluation.
Extending the Lesson:
  • Listen to Sudanese music featured on National Geographic: World Music. National Geographic: World Music: The Afrobeat Sudan Aid Project aims to raise awareness of the current situation in Darfur, and all proceeds from album sales are being donated to relief efforts.
  • Find out if there are any Lost Boys in your community or region. (States are listed in Student Handout: Migration Journey of the Lost Boys and Girls . A list of states and cities in which Lost Boys were resettled is on a Web site about the book The Lost Boys Of Sudan: An American Story Of The Refugee Experience . States and cities are listed in the portion of the left navigation bar with a black background. Also, search the Internet or a newspaper index to find articles about Lost Boys in your area). If there are Lost Boys or Girls in your area, ask if any would be willing to visit your school and talk with students. If not, contact one of the Lost Boys groups with active Web sites and try to establish a pen-pal correspondence between them and your students. For links to local, national, and international Lost Boys organization visit God Grew Tired of Us .
  • Find out more about the Kakuma refugee camp and its residents by investigating some of these Web sites:

  • Invite representatives of other refugee or immigrant groups or agencies who work with refugees/immigrants to visit your school and talk with the students.
  • Have students conduct research about immigrant or refugee groups in the local area (or beyond), and identify one group on which to focus for their project. Use Project Plan-It! , Youth Service America’s online project planning tool, to help develop a plan for raising awareness about or helping an immigrant or refugee group. Project Plan-It! uses an interactive series of questions and templates that guide the user through the project planning process, and allows them to print out their plan, timeline, budget, funding proposal, press release, service-learning reflection plan, and other helpful resources. Registration is required to use the tool, and children under age 13 need a parent’s permission to register; the teacher may wish to register for the class. Have students prepare posters or PowerPoint presentations describing their project plan, and present the proposal to officials from the school and/or community (e.g., PTA, school board, town council, or civic organizations such as Rotary or Kiwanis). If possible, implement the project; try to get the whole school involved!
  • Register the project as part of National & Global Youth Service Day . You can get free planning materials, including a Planning Toolkit and Service-Learning Curriculum Guide, from Youth Service America .
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