Through the Eyes of a Refugee

Author: Betty Crowley
Lesson Plan:

Through the Eyes of a Refugee


This lesson asks students to analyze the "Afghanistan: Land in Crisis" map (available in print and online) to determine how the physical geography of this region affects the lifestyles of the individuals who live there. Students will be asked to consider how, particularly in a time of conflict, topography influences the locations of refugee camps and the paths refugees might take to leave the area.

Connections to the Curriculum:


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 3: "How to analyze the spatial organization of people, places, and environments on Earth's surface"
Standard 15: "How physical systems affect human systems"


Two 40-minute class periods

Materials Required:

·         Computer with Internet access (optional)

·         "Afghanistan: Land in Crisis" map (available in print and online)

·         Post-it notes or small stickers


Students will

·         study a refugee map of Afghanistan;

·         locate the largest concentrations of refugee camps and characteristics of their locations;

·         compare the refugee map with a satellite map of the region;

·         determine how physical traits of the areas might impact the refugee camps; and

·         create theories to explain why particular locations were chosen for the refugee camps.

Geographic Skills:

Acquiring Geographic Information
Organizing Geographic Information
Analyzing Geographic Information

P r o c e d u r e: Day 1

Anticipatory Set:

Hook: In pairs, students will define and discuss the definition of refugee and refugee camp. Teacher will play The Fugees version of “No Woman No Cry”. Pairs + whole class discuss Wyclef Jean’s involvement with Haiti and the refugee camps that were built after the earthquake of January 2010. Teacher will relate Haitian refugee camps built during a natural catastrophe to refugee camps built to house people during a war (15 minutes).


Students will view "Refugees Flee War and Famine," one of the inset maps of the "Afghanistan: Land in Crisis" map. (Map is available in print and online.) Students will be asked to study the map and note as many details as possible about areas in Afghanistan where there are a greater number of refugee camps. What countries do these camps border? Which are the largest cities in these areas? Are there any bodies of water near the camps? Why are people in these camps? (15 minutes)


Students will compare what they found on the "Refugees" map with "Afghanistan: Land in Crisis," which is a satellite map of that region. Students should apply the information they collected about refugee camps to the satellite map. On the paper version of the map, students can use small Post-it notes to mark the locations of refugees. (10 minutes)

P r o c e d u r e: Day 2

Anticipatory Set:

As they come into class, students view the satellite map from yesterday for a few minutes. They will be informed that they will  use “Mental Mapping” through the X1: Globe Projector feature from the Xpeditions/Thinkfinity site to aid them in remembering the locations of the refugees (10 minutes)


In the same pairs as yesterday, students will describe, on paper, the geographic features of the areas in Afghanistan. Students will be challenged to create theories based on the data on the maps, recent news reports, and prior knowledge of geography, about why there are more refugees in one area than another. Students will use "Afghanistan: Land in Crisis" and the National Geographic News article, Afghanistan's "Hidden Caves" a Myth, Experts Say, for research (15 – 18 minutes)

Student Assessment (Independent Practice)/Closing:

For homework (draft due the next day, final piece due in 2 days), students will write a diary entry as if they were refugees, describing their journey. The entry should include descriptions of how the terrain and the climate impacted their endeavors. The diary entries should also reflect a deeper understanding of the culture of Afghanistan. Students can visit some of the related web sites below to gather more information.

Teacher will model how to approach this assignment, reinforcing the major points discussed in the lessons. (10 – 12 minutes)

Extending the Lesson (Extra Credit Assignment):

Students who seek more enrichment may choose to print the Xpeditions map of Afghanistan and mark towns mentioned in the news each evening on their own map. Students can then compare their map with the satellite map, paying special attention to areas with a great deal of refugee activity. A new diary entry can be entered whenever new events occur.

Technology Component:
X1: Globe Projector

Related Links:

National Geographic Magazine: A Life Revealed (Afghan Girl Found)
National Geographic: AdventureAfghanistan's Slain Rebel Leader
National Geographic: Adventure—Afghanistan Photo Gallery
National Geographic: Adventure—Sebastian Junger Under Fire
National Geographic: Ilkka Uimonen—Faces of Afghanistan
National Geographic: Xpeditions ActivityThrough the Eyes of a Refugee
National Geographic: Xpeditions Atlas—Afghanistan

Ideas for this lesson gleaned from: