Stilwell Refugee Voices Project Goes into WDM Library Collection

This school year, the 2021-2022 class of 7th Graders at Stilwell Jr. High School completed an extensive project-based learning course that resulted in the creation of 26 children's books highlighting the stories of local refugees.

The students worked to interview each of the refugees, work on a storyboard, write, and then illustrate the children's books based off of their lives. Each book can be found in the West Des Moines Public Library's New Residents Corner on the second floor. 

"It's crazy to me that people will be able to read these stories in the library," said Sully Flynn, one of the students who worked on this project. "It was a great opportunity to work on something at school that other people are actually going to see and it's not just a grade." 

The Refugee Voices project, which has been in-progress for three years but delayed by COVID-19, has been a work of passion and dedication. Before the students even began interacting with the refugee on their project, they watched the documentary Human Flow, participated in a refugee simulation, learned from local author Ricky Dragoni and local illustrator Nathan Wright, and went through an interview workshop to learn how to ask questions about sensitive topics. 

The refugees that the students spoke to came from all over the world— Afghanistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Congo, Kenya, Kosovo, Laos, Myanmar, Nigeria, Vietnam, South Sudan, and more. 

"The most rewarding part for me is to see the empathy that this project has helped [the students] develop," said Peter Bissinger, one of the Stilwell 7th grade teachers who oversaw the project. "And I don’t think that we’ll necessarily see the payoff for that right away… but this will be one of the events in their life that helped them develop into empathetic, fully-caring and more globally-thinking kids and adults.”

We spoke with the teachers and students about the importance of this project in our latest podcast episode. Listen to it below! 



Refugee Voices Compilation


Posted on June 27, 2022