Us & Them: Exploring Integration and Belonging at John Lennon High School
Where do you fall on the “Us” vs. “Them” spectrum? It might depend on the type of question we ask! As part of our ”Research Meets School – New Perspectives on Migration and Integration” project, we led a high school workshop in January 2024 at the John Lennon Gymnasium in Berlin-Mitte. The workshop took place in an ethics class for 15-16 year olds and focused on the topic of integration and belonging.
Terms like “integration”, “belonging”, and “diversity” are very present in public debate in Germany. The goal of our workshop was to enhance students’ understanding of these concepts and given them real-world meaning. Through the power of storytelling coupled with thought-provoking activities, we encouraged the students to question their assumptions and explore the nuances of a diverse and pluralist society.
We started the workshop by asking students to write down one single word to describe “integration”. Some students chose words focused more on connection or social cohesion, while others on adaptation and fitting in. In a second activity, we asked students to place themselves on a line in between the two poles of “us” and “them”, depending on various prompts we gave them. Some of the questions referred to their hobbies, for example being athletic or musical, others were about the languages spoken at home or having more than one passport. Through this activity, students were able to experience that belonging to “us” and “them” can shift depending on the category or community in focus.
Next, we showed the students two videos from our “Rethinking ‘Us’ and ‘Them’” series where Germans with and without migration history spoke about their understanding of integration, from both a theoretical and personal perspective. In small groups, the students discussed integration and how the different perceptions highlighted in the videos informed their understanding of the term. They spoke about diversity, respect, success, inclusion, language, laws and more as aspects of integration. Through the personal accounts about experiences of integration and belonging in the videos and by one of the workshop facilitators with a multifaceted migration story, the students were able to explore how these concepts manifest in everyday interactions and the role that they play in fostering an inclusive society.
This workshop series is currently supported by the Friends of the WZB (Social Science Center Berlin) and Deutsche Postcode Lotterie. If you’re interested in holding a workshop at your school, reach out to us at email@example.com and include “school workshop” in the subject line.
Written by Issa Gueye