Our 12th grade English students visited St. Ann’s Warehouse in Dumbo, Brooklyn, to view a production titled The Jungle. After taking London by storm at the Young Vic and in the West End, The Jungle transformed St. Ann’s Warehouse, introducing the hopeful, resilient residents of “the Jungle,” a sprawling refugee camp in Calais, France. Students took a seat inside the bustling Afghan Café to experience how, with minimal resources in a cold, inhospitable environment, refugees, and volunteers built a warm, self-governing society out of nothing. This interactive play was a truly immersive experience for both students and teachers.
This special opportunity supported our winter unit on The Politics of Place through the lens of home, migration, the state and shifting identities and borders. During the month of December, students were introduced to the unit’s task which is to learn about their family, friend or acquaintance’s immigration and migration history then reinvent a part of the experience. We explored multiple genres of texts – short stories, poems, photojournalism and more – to provide ways for students to think about writing migration stories. In examining works such as Look by Solmaz Sharif, a collection of photographs titled “Immigrants” from the Howard Greenberg Museum and “The Second Bakery Attack” by Haruki Murakami, students were asked to consider multiple aspects of migration: hope, despair, desperation and the result of movement. We also spent a day workshopping the interview process as many students were planning on speaking with relatives and friends over winter holidays. This workshop and process asked students to acknowledge the fact that they’ll be giving voice to someone else’s experience – an important task that requires careful planning, thoughtful conversations and sensitivity to the experiences of others.
As our 12th-grade students move forward in crafting the migration stories, they will be asked to consider their position as a writer, family member, friend, acquaintance when approaching this project, keeping in mind the possibility of interpreting and altering the feelings and implications of events. We hope to publish these stories to share with the community in the coming months.