Welcome to the New World Curriculum and Learning Guide

Welcome to the New World Curriculum and Learning Guide” teaches crucial and timely issues through the story of the Aldabaans, a real family of Syrian refugees who arrived in America on Election Day 2016. Journalist Jake Halpern shadowed them for four years and partnered with illustrator Michael Sloan to turn the family’s experiences first into a Pulitzer-winning comic in The New York Times, then into the full length graphic novel Welcome to the New World.

In partnership with Halpern, The Immigrant Learning Center has created a curriculum based on his graphic novel. The series of nine lessons, written for grades seven to 11, teach students about refugees, the migrant experience, the Syrian Civil War, and other topical issues. It also helps students learn how to interpret and analyze a graphic text. The lessons can be used collectively as a curriculum or as individual lesson plans. They can also be adapted for other grades. Worksheets, graphic organizers, resources and rubrics are included.

Essential questions:

  • Why do people leave their homes?
  • What factors affect their decisions?
  • What supports and challenges do people encounter when immigrating to the United States?
  • How do people respond to newcomers?
  • What is the refugee crisis?
  • What is our responsibility toward refugees?
  • How does a graphic narrative effectively tell a story?


Social Studies, English Language Arts, World History or Current Events classes


Refugees, Syrian Civil War, migration, assimilation/acculturation, graphic novels




Nine lessons, to be used serially or individually

Common Core Standards:

This curriculum fulfills these Common Core standards:


Praise for Welcome to the New World

The Guardian says the novel is “truly thought-provoking” and “take[s] you to places rarely imagined in terms of the refugee experience.”

Naomi Shihab Nye, Young People’s Poet Laureate and author of Habibi, says “Welcome to the New World is a project of the greatest humanity and care…. Americans need this book to help them understand the sorrow that makes people leave their homeland, the hardships they face, and the resilient dreams they never stop carrying.”

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