WISS Today Article


The beginning of a PYP Unit of Inquiry starts with a provocation–a set of circumstances which invite students to think critically, use their knowledge, and work collaboratively to find solutions. For the 4th grade, the provocation for the “Who We are” Unit of Inquiry started with an earthquake. Andre Denomme, 4th grade teacher, shares about this recent experience: 

 “An earthquake came and it destroyed our home, so we have to build these shelters.”






Fourth graders participated in a refugee simulation in support of the Unit of Inquiry “Who We Are”. The central idea is “Human migration involves challenges, taking risks and embracing opportunities.” To create this simulation, students returned to the classroom after lunch to find that their “home” had been destroyed by a (very local) earthquake. Since their home base was destroyed they needed to find new shelter. Luckily, the government of Djibouti was kind enough to supply space and boxes for a temporary refugee camp.

When students first arrived to the space, they set up simple shelters. But soon after, the government informed them that the land had to be reclaimed for farming. The students were forced into a smaller space and had to work together to negotiate the smaller space and new terrain. They enjoyed a period of safety for a while, but a terrible storm came in and destroyed many of their shelters. The storm also destroyed their waste management system and spread disease, causing some students to be put into quarantine. Finally, seismologists declared the classrooms safe and they were able to return home.













Simulations such as the mini-earthquake and ensuing events give students an experience to frame their perspective. Experience is what brings context to their research into historical migrations, their own personal histories, and into current migration and refugee movements today. Perspective and context give students the ability to think from many different points of views. In essence, bringing balance to how our students approach topics of global significance, such as human migration.

As a community, we can connect readily with the “Who We Are” Unit of Inquiry as our own stories of arriving in China is a personal migration story. We can engage with our children and start the conversation at home. How would you answer these questions?

Are migrations forced or voluntary?  

What are the challenges, risks, or opportunities brought with migration?  

What is your personal migration story?