CBC Digital Archives

Lesson Plan: For Teachers: Vietnamese Boat People: An International Crisis

History, Social Studies, Geography
1 to 2 lessons
Students will understand the depth of the crisis worldwide.
Students will explore information about the crisis in Vietnam and create comparison charts to place the data in current context.

Lesson Plan

Before Exploring

Write the following quotation on the board:

"Refugees faced a host of perils: typhoons, overcrowded and often leaky boats, a lack of navigational tools, brutal pirates, starvation, dehydration, and illness. An estimated half of the boat people perished at sea. That's 500,000 to 600,000 human lives."

Read the quotation aloud or have a volunteer read it. Then ask students for their immediate reaction to the gravity of the situation. Extend the discussion by asking them to describe what they think of the situation, and what questions they would like to ask. Record their questions.

Outline the Opportunity

Students will review the clips 'Why they fled: The fall of Saigon,' 'Re-education camps...or death camps?' 'Pirates and sinking ships: One refugee's story,' and 'Refuge for the unwanted,' including the "Did You Know" sections of the topic Boat People: A Refugee Crisis on the CBC Digital Archives website. As they review the clips, students will search for statistics about the Vietnam conflict.

Have students create a two-column chart. In column 1, they will record the statistics they have found. In column two, they will use numbers related to their own neighbourhood, town, city, or province to place the statistics in a context they can understand and clarify the reality of the crisis. For example, an entry in column one may read: In 1987, 15,000 people remained in Vietnamese labour camps. The entry in column two may read: Our town has a population of 15,000.

Revisit and Reflect

Have groups present and discuss their completed comparison charts. Students should describe what the comparison tells them and how it makes them feel. Give students time to view one another's work.

As a class, discuss the impact of the statistics, such as the impact of large numbers of people leaving their homes and immigrating to other countries.


Using their comparison charts as background, students can write a speech or an editorial to persuade an audience (of their choice) to financially support the boat people.

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