Current events discussions make this summer even hotter. Words such as containment camps, concentration camps, deportation centers and I.C.E. raids are thrown around classrooms in a flurry. Responding to questions is a challenge and students often pose their questions as statements expecting yes or no answers. “We’ve never just let people in?” “We’ve never just detained people?” “We’ve always welcomed everyone?” The topic is divisive and remaining neutral is often hard. Encouraging students to become informed critical thinkers is even harder. This week those questions were answered with inter actives and short video clips.
Time travel to Ellis Island was a huge hit and sparked great discussions. The assignment was a simple forum. Students were asked to complete the Ellis Island Interactive Tour and comment on the immigration process including; how the average man or woman would feel during process, was processing fair, humiliating, difficult, expensive? Students were asked if they could pass the 29 questions to enter the country and if they would have felt welcome. After completing their initial post students were required to respond to their classmates discussing America’s impression of immigrants during the 1800's, immigration laws and their reactions to the physicals and questions. The assignment was an immediate hit among students. Students were amazed that women were subjected to addition questions if they were traveling alone and that there was a short physical that even checked for mental health. Walking in someone else’s shoes was enlightening.
As their discussions evolved, many shared short video clips to help illustrate their points. The favorites were Deconstructing History Ellis Island and Why American Despised the Irish, Deconstruction History: Ireland Get the Facts on the Emerald Isle.
Immigration is a touchy subject and most students do not understand their own immigrant roots. As students debated both past and present immigration history, they concluded, that we as a country need compromise and compassion. That understanding made the activity a success.
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