Weston High School Hosts First Symposium on Forced Migration
On March 29th, the Weston High School History Department hosted its first ever symposium on the topic of Forced Migration. The symposium was the start of a series of culminating activities to conclude Grade 9 Honors World History students’ participation in a new program, the Global Concerns Classroom. Students prepared for the symposium through a year-long research project on issues of forced displacement in Syria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar, Maldives, El Salvador, Somalia, and the Navajo Nation. The goal of the symposium was to give students the experience of an academic conference with opportunities to authentically apply what they have been learning. One student commented, “We have been studying a singular country or area for many months, but this symposium allowed us to take a step back from that and look at these issues in a much more worldwide sense.” One hundred 9th Grade Honors World History students, select upperclassmen, and twenty-five students from Norwood High School’s Global Citizenship Program were in attendance. Funding for the event came from WEEFC and the US Bureau of Cultural and Educational Affairs.
The event opened with a keynote address from Dr. Peter Krause of Boston College followed by two breakout sessions. Breakout sessions featured experts Osilia Trigueros (East Boston Health Center), Sarah Bruinooge (WorldEd), Abdallah Ddumba (Justice for All), Patrick Vinck (Harvard Humanitarian Initiative), Abdi A. Yusuf (Somali Development Center), and local resident Dr. Abrar Qureshi (Syrian American Medical Society). These sessions allowed students to engage directly with speakers in small groups. Students felt “the most beneficial part was just being able to interact with other people who were experts and ask them questions” and that “it was intriguing to hear about the experience of someone who was actually in the region, rather than learning from a database online.”
The symposium concluded with student speakers Ellie Hitt and Andrea Vidal from Boston University. Hitt and Vidal have been working with a team of other students to create the smartphone app “Urban Refuge,” designed to improve access to services for urban refugees in Amman, Jordan. This portion of the program was designed to give students an example of how they could turn what they had been learning about into action. One student commented “getting speakers who have been able to come up with some solutions was very cool because it helps us not feel like since we are just kids we can't do anything.” A leadership team of students has been meeting weekly since the symposium to organize a grade-wide action plan around fundraising and awareness.
The symposium is part of a larger social studies department curriculum shift to better engage students in learning and taking action about global issues. Grade 9 students opened the year with a field trip to Boston at Long Wharf for the Doctors Without Borders “Forced From Home” exhibit and some classes participated in National Geographic’s Out of Eden Learn online discussion forum. In February, a team of ten students also attended a Concern’s Classroom Global Summit to collaborate with area youth about the topic of forced migration. In reflection of the year’s learning one student commented, “you felt very intelligent and confident…..from studying [the curriculum] all year. It was a good way to test our knowledge and open our eyes to see how the information we studied isn't just history or facts, it is current situations that need attention.”
Some examples of student work can be explored online at:
El Salvador Somalia DRC Myanmar Navajo Maldives