Chief Sealth’s Skype Session with Author Ben Rawlence 05/19

Between January and March 2016, Global Classroom sponsored a book club for teachers featuring the new book from Ben Rawlence and Macmillan Publishers entitled City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World’s Largest Refugee Camp. On January 13, 2016 teachers in our book club had the opportunity to meet with City of Thorns‘ author Ben Rawlence for a conversation mediated by former Ambassador to the DRC Roger Meece. Ben offered insight into his experience as a researcher in Dadaab–the largest refugee camp in the world, and the location of his book–as well as provided ideas for ways to incorporate themes from the book in the classroom. Teachers followed up by reading the book, completing a short reflection assignment, and participating in a follow-up discussion. Teachers who participated in the full book club earned 10 professional development clock hours. 

One of the benefits of participating in the bookclub is the possibility for teachers to incorporate the book into their lesson plans at school. Students at Chief Sealth International High School, for example, read the City of Thorns while studying human migration, and were given the opportunity to Skype with the author, Ben Rawlence, and ask him questions about the book. During the two 30-minute Skype sessions with Mr. Rawlence, the students directed questions around Rawlence’s work in Dadaab, his experience writing the book, and about refugee issues more broadly. 

Reflecting on their reading and discussions with the author, the students of Chief Sealth said that City of Thorns gave deeper meaning to what they were learning about in the classroom–making human migration much more seem up close, personal, and real. One student, Hielen, was interested in learning more about Rawlence’s time spent inside Dadaab, and asked him if he was treated similarly to the refugee residents. She was surprised to learn that Rawlence was, in fact, treated very differently—due largely to the fact that he was white and the refugees were African. Another student, Miya, reported enjoying “having Ben Rawlence get excited about his book and his experience as he shared his story”. She continued by saying: “having him right in from of me emphasized the realness of all the stories”. Other students noted that hearing about Ben Rawlence’s work was inspiring and allowed them to gain new perspectives on lifestyles distinctly different from their own, noting that they hope the book is incorporated into next year’s curriculum.

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