Celebrating Sanctuary in Schools

Celebrate our wonderful city of sanctuary and the amazing contribution refugees and asylum seekers make to Bristol with some fun classroom activities during Bristol Refugee Festival 6th – 20th June 2021.    World Refugee Day – Sunday 20th June.

Before undertaking any of these activities, consider whether you might have refugees,  asylum seekers or stateless children in your class. Consider talking to those children and their parents first to get their input. 

Below are suggested ideas for different Key stages and ways to use resources on our you tube channel

Younger children and KS1 /  KS2

Discussion around the importance of a warm welcome:

What was your first day of school like? 

What would it be like to go to a new school and nobody speaks your language?

What would make you feel better?

People paper chains – cut out paper people and decorate them with smiley faces. Attach them together in a chain to create a big, warm welcome around the classroom. 

Waving welcome hands – draw around your hands and cut them out. Look up words for ‘welcome’ in different languages. Decorate your paper hands with words for welcome and display them in your window or string them together and line the school gates with your ‘waving welcome hands’. 

Lubna and Pebble – after reading the story, ask the children to decorate their own pebbles with smiling faces and give them as a gift or leave them as a secret present for someone to find. Take photos of all the pebbles together and share with us @bristolrefugeefestival 

Finding Words  – stories of discovery beautiful short animations depicting stories told by refugees in Bristol. See below for more details and ideas using our you tube channel.

Paddington’s suitcase – Padddington left Peru with only a few items in his suitcase. Decide what five items you would take with you if you had to leave home and live in a new place. Draw the items on an outline of an empty suitcase. 

KS3 / KS4

Learn a song from another culture, already arranged in different parts on the Music Action website here. Video the class singing it and post it online. Watch local refugee musicians performing on our Youtube channel. 

Create a dance routine to a Rita Ora song to celebrate the contribution refugees make to British culture. Film the routine and share online. 

Guest speaker – perhaps one of the parents would be happy to come in and be interviewed by the children (or get in touch with us or City of Sanctuary to arrange a speaker). 

What was it like when they first arrived in the UK and what sort of welcome did they receive?

  • Write a story for a newspaper, a poem, a radio interview for the school website
  • For KS4 students, this interview could focus on human rights as part of their Citizenship curriculum. 

Cookery class – Invite a visiting cook to come in and give a cookery class, sharing food from where they come from or use one of our recipe cards from refugee cooks in Bristol. Take photos of the dishes when you’ve finished and share them online. 

Bristol Sweetmart – read case study of Bristol Sweetmart – beloved local institution founded by refugees. Can you think of any places you love in your neighbourhood? Take photos of your local neighbourhood favourites to share with the class and online. 

Bristol’s map of the world – There are 91 languages spoken in Bristol (2011 Census). Using this list of the most commonly spoken languages,  colour in countries on a map of the world which speak any one of the languages listed. Put them in your windows and share online. 

Bristol Refugee Festival theme this year is ‘We cannot walk alone, let’s walk together’ There is a moment in Martin Luther King’s historic ‘I have a dream’ speech when he turns his attention to the White people who, realising their destiny and that of their Black fellow citizens was intertwined, joined the movement for equal rights.

“They have come to realise that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom,” he said. “We cannot walk alone.”
Discuss what the phrase ‘We cannot walk alone’ means to you. Why do you think Bristol Refugee Festival added ‘Let’s Walk together’?   Design a poster/write a poem/create a story etc around the theme.  

Making Bristol Home – see below for suggested discussion/ideas using short films from our you tube channel.

Celebrating Sanctuary at Home – see below for suggested discussion/ideas using video footage from performances from Bristol based refugee artists.

Share it! – share and tag your photos

#BRF2021  #CelebratingSanctuarylocal   #refugeeswelcome   #wecannotwalkalone #let’swalk together

Twitter: @RefugeeFestBRL / Instagram: @bristolrefugeefestival / Facebook: @bristolrefugeefestival

For more information, visit our website at www.bristolrefugeefestival.org  

Bristol Refugee Festival YouTube Channel for Schools


Finding Stories – a series of short animations using stories from refugees in Bristol.

Cox’s Bazar by Shiddik

Shiddik narrates this beautiful animation telling the story of when he visited the world’s largest beach in Bangladesh. 

Discussion point: Think of a time when you went somewhere new for the first time. Was it scary? What is it like for people coming to the UK for the first time?

The Princess and the Snails by Parvana

Parvana tells the story of an exiled princess who finds her way back home with the help of some friendly snails. 

Discussion point: If you were exiled like the princess, what would you miss most about home? / Draw a picture of your home and what you would miss the most. 


Making Bristol Home  – a series of short videos where refugees talk about their experience of arriving in the UK and making Bristol their home. 

  • Ali Elmubarak – Sudanese musician, Ali,  talks about why he left Sudan, the welcome he received in the UK  and feeling at home in Bristol. 

Discussion points: What does it mean to be a Bristolian? / What do you know about the situation in Sudan?

  • Luis Bustamante  – since arriving  in the UK in the 1970s following a coup in his home country of Chile,  Luis has had children and grandchildren in the UK and feels “part of this place”

Discussion point: What is a refugee?  / Has what it means to be a refugee changed over time?

Celebrating Sanctuary at Home – video gigs from our 2020 programme showcasing outstanding refugee musicians from Bristol 

  • Moussa Kouyate is a master kora player from Mali who has performed extensively in the UK and Europe. 
  • Dijwar Khalil plays Kurdish music on the saz and has been performing in the Bristol area since 2018.
  • Nabra are the oud duo of Ali Elmubarak (also featured in our Making Bristol Home short video series)  and Knud Stűwe, who have been performing Sudanese music together since 2015.

Other helpful resources 

‘Positive Images’  toolkit from British Red Cross

Activities, games and lesson plans from Oxfam 

Data charts from the Migration Observatory 

UNHCR resources for KS1, KS2, KS3 and KS4

Useful facts from the Refugee Council 

Refugee stories in their own words from Actionaid