Students learn about immigrant past

First Posted: 4/7/2014

The annual Ellis Island Simulation and Ethnic Food Dayat Newton Ransom Elementary School allows students to walk in the shoes of an immigrant.

Approximately 60 third grade students, some of whom dressed the part , participated in the April 7 program that was organized by teachers Lynn Lisofsky, Gina Seyer, Chrissy McAndrew and Lori Carroll.

The goal throughout the 17-week lesson, is to talk about the difficulties immigrants faced coming to a new country and the reasons they came.

“Our entire reading and social studies curriculum is based on immigration, so we read historical fiction texts about immigration, as well as non-fiction stories.” Seyer said. “We focus on the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Ellis Island opened in 1892, so we are focusing pretty much on 1892 to the early 1920s.

“We focus on mainly on the journey of the steerage passengers, because they were the third-class passengers. Steerage passengers passed through Ellis Island. First and second class passengers were processed on the boat and they didn’t have to pass through Ellis Island.”

Lesson plans included the inspection process, the long trip on the boat, dangers of disease, overcrowded conditions and the relocation of immigrants to tenements in larger cities.

“Sometimes it would take many weeks or months to get to the port cities, and then immigrants had to wait in the port cities to be examined before they got on that first boat, and then we talked about moving to the larger cities into the tenements,” Seyer said.

Also included in the immigration lesson are primary resources that allow students to make a personal connection with their ancestors and their backgrounds.

“I had a student who brought his great-grandfather’s naturalization paper to class. I used that to show the students about primary resources,” Seyer said. “A lot of the students brought pictures of their grandparents, again, to make that personal connection. …which is a really nice part of doing this theme. We cover a lot of areas.”

Stormi Lasko said she’s enjoyed learning about “what happened to the immigrants when they first came, and what immigrants are.”

“It’s really fun because I actually get to feel how it’s like to be an immigrant,” Imani McDonnell said. “I think it’s awesome.”

Following the program the children had an opportunity to sample a variety of ethnic food prepared by parents and teachers. Penne in red sauce, kielbasa, halushki and lasagna were a few of the items served at the Ethnic Food Day.

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