Cultural Identity of the Lost Boys

Cultural Identity of the Lost Boys

The Lost Boys of Sudan are a group of youth who fled civil war in their native Sudan, spent a decade growing up in a Kenyan refugee camp, and were eventually resettled in the United States. This activity introduces students to the Lost Boys and the challenges they faced while adapting to life in the United States.


6 - 8

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1. Orient students by showing them the video From Sudan to the United States. Pre-teach or review relevant vocabulary, including:

  • culture
  • cultural exchange
  • cultural identity
  • cultural landscape
  • cultural marker
  • assimilation
  • acculturation

Have students make connections to their own lives to make sure they understand each concept.

As warm-up, ask:

Have you ever felt out of place or unsure about how to behave in an unfamiliar situation?

Guide students to share personal stories of times they felt like an outsider or felt that they did not know how to fit in. Maybe it was because there was a game that other children played that they did not know the rules of. It could be a time they visited someplace far from home. It may be the first time they went to a big city, or the first time they went to a rural area. After students have a chance to share responses as a class, ask:

  • What is it that made you feel out of place? The way other people looked at you, acted, treated each other? The food? The clothes? What made you feel different or unsure?
  • When you feel out of place, what emotions do you have? How do you respond to your emotions?

2. Tell students they will be finding out more about the “lost boys” of Sudan who were brought to the United States as part of a United Nations/U.S. humanitarian effort in 2001.

Introduce and watch three excerpts from God Grew Tired of Us and distribute “Cultures” handout. Before viewing the excerpts, go over the handout with students, explaining that under “Lost Boys” they should list cultural markers that the “lost boys” share. Under “United States,” they should list cultural markers of the United States that are either pointed out by the “lost boys” in the videos or that U.S. citizens in the videos point out. Under “Assimilation,” students should list evidence that the lost boys and girls have adopted mainstream U.S. culture in place of their Sudanese culture. Under “Acculturation,” list evidence that the lost boys and girls have adapted to U.S. culture without giving up their Sudanese culture. Under “Preservation,” list practices or ideas that the Sudanese who were interviewed said they wanted to protect from change, or way they actively resisted assimilation?

3. After students have completed their handouts, share responses as a class. Guide student discussion by reminding them of their stories of difference and feeling out of place. Ask students:

  • What markers are representative of U.S. culture?
  • How do the values of the ”lost boys” compare to your own?
  • What questions and fears would you have if you were moving to a new place?
  • What differences do you see between Dinka culture and U.S. culture?
  • How do you think you would adapt to life in a new country? Why?
  • Do you think there is more evidence of acculturation or assimilation of the “lost boys”?

4. Reintroduce the concept of cultural exchange as it connects to the actions of the “lost boys” in their U.S. communities and in Sudan. Ask:

  • How have the “lost boys” shared Dinka culture within the United States?
  • How have they brought aspects of U.S. culture to Sudan?
  • Can you do to make a difference in your community the way the “lost boys” have made a difference in their communities? How?

5. Brainstorm and plan as a class to develop a cultural exchange project in which the whole class can participate. The plan should:

  • Be achievable with available classroom resources
  • Have a specific, stated goal
  • Involve all students in the class
  • Require a two-way exchange of ideas

Example projects are: a pen-pal exchange with students in another part of their country or another country; a program where students interview counterparts in another part of their country or in another country; a playlist exchange where students gather their favorite music from their home regions or countries.

Extending the Learning

  1. Listen to Sudanese music on the National Geographic Musical Journeys page.
  2. Have students conduct independent research on the “lost girls” of Sudan and their fates, then write a short essay or prepare a presentation for the class.
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Last Updated

March 7, 2024

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