Year 8 STEAM Week: Desperate Journeys

The UNHCR reports "we are now witnessing the highest levels of displacement on record. An unprecedented 65.6 million people around the world have been forced from home. Among them are nearly 22.5 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18". 

As the saying goes, "to begin to really understand another human being, you first need to walk a mile in their shoes." As preparation for Refugee week, all Year 8 students took part in a live interactive intercultural experience. "Desperate Journeys" explores the global refugee crisis by tracking the journey of a family forced from their home in a war torn country. It is a challenging piece based firmly on facts. First-hand accounts, through cast members and case studies, are brought home the human stories behind the headlines. The students entered a maze-like set assembled in the School Car Park. The 70 minutes immersive  package was delivered by the Empathy Action team, including student briefing and a reflective feedback and discussion session at the end. By experiencing such a simulation, students were able to deepen their personal understanding of the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War. 

The experience was delivered as part of an interdisciplinary STE(A)M (Science, Technology, Engineering, (Arts), Mathematics) week, which centred on an exploration of the statement "In order for a community to flourish and grow, the basic needs of food, water and security must be provided first".  As a result they designed a survival box and parachute for its safe delivery, experimented to create safe water and explored the impact of superbugs. In light of the problem of language barriers, the students designed imagery inspired by the work of John Baldessari as instructions for the survival box and devised a communications system for delivery by radio signal via the Micro:bits. The Students also developed their engineering skills using the 'STIXX' newspaper rolling machines for creating shelter frameworks in order to complete their response to a global humanitarian crisis. 

As an IB World School, as part of the Y7-9 Middle Years Programme (MYP) Tonbridge Grammar students often experience interdisciplinary learning which supports students to understand bodies of knowledge from two or more disciplines or subject groups, in order to integrate them and create new understanding. 

"During the week, I was surprised by how many refugees there are in developing countries (84% as of 2017) where there is little hope of work opportunities as there is, even without refugees. I found the Desperate Journeys shocking because it was so real and raw- and that by going through that experience I was only living through a minuscule part of what the real refugees must be feeling as they make their way to a new start. I was in awe of all the organisations that I learnt of who are fighting for the rights of refugees, particularly Empathy Action, who made Desperate Journeys- and the true stories behind it- public. I agree with the statement of inquiry- a person can't hope to get a job, work or accomplish things without food, or water, or somewhere safe to stay, as perceived in Maslow's Hierarchy of needs (learnt also during STEAM Week). The next step for me will be to share my experience with others and to try to change peoples' prejudices against refugees."

- Minna (Year 8)