Usually kids are not too thrilled about attending summer school programs. But at a school in Canada, refugee children are learning how to fit into their new communities while having a blast making tabbouleh.

It’s thanks to creative teachers like Kristin McGinn, refugee children are learning skills from math and literacy while picking up skills on how to adjust to their new home and having fun. 

The summer program, where McGinn teaches, is called S.A.I.L (Summer Adventure In Learning) and it takes place at a public school building in Mississauga, Canada, where refugee children and students are learning in an unusual way.

Instead of your classic summer school scene — children staring out the window lazily daydreaming of playing video games or swimming in the pool — these kids are cooking up a storm. And learning a whole lot.

McGinn engages refugee children in a holistic learning experience by having them making traditionally Middle-Eastern cuisine like tabbouleh.

At S.A.I.L. you’ll see kids writing the names of fresh ingredients they’re familiar with like tomatoes, olive oil, salt, parsley, and cucumber in both English and Arabic on the blackboard.

After McGinn’s students learn the ingredients, decide how much they need, and figure out the cost and budget for their recipe, they walk about three blocks to the grocery store. Familiarizing themselves with the neighborhood and friendly community members nearby, together they purchase the ingredients, return back to the school building, and get cooking.

More than 70 Syrian refugee students joined the Peel School District in Mississauga, a popular resettlement city near Toronto in the past year. They came in at various times throughout the year which led the school board to create a three-week long summer program to enrich the lives of refugee students. The point of the program is to acclimate them to Canadian classrooms, and help reinforce language and other skills they’ve learned throughout the school year.

“The ultimate goal of the camp,” McGinn told The Star, “is for them to really understand this is their school.”

Now, these students will return to school in the fall more confident, comfortable and prepared to succeed in their new Canadian community.

For children fleeing war-torn cities like Daara, where Alnajar comes from, meeting others and playing is more than fun. It’s a chance at a future that every refugee child deserves.

“I love making friends and learning English,” said 9-year-old, Malak Alnajar.


Defeat Poverty

How Making Tabbouleh Is Helping Syrian Refugee Kids Adjust to Life in Canada

By Meghan Werft