Middle School

Coming to America

Immigration ProjectGrant has spent the last five weeks preparing for this day, and prepared he is. He has brushed up on currency exchange, and his knowledge of infectious disease will, hopefully, keep him on his feet. He’s had a little trouble in Spanish, but with some extra help from his teacher during study hall, he is ready to translate. Now, it is just time to wait in line. All of his work has brought him to this moment: Grant is face-to-face with immigration officials. Has he done it? May he come in?

Each spring, Middle School students take part in a long-term, interdisciplinary project that brings them into the world of immigration to the United States. Students, along with faculty from all disciplines, work together to experience the details of the immigration experience: social studies lessons include  personal histories and United States history; math classes have lessons on statue facts and currency conversion; English and Literature use class time for writing, reading, and journals.

The project culminates with the Immigration Simulation, a day-long demonstration of what the students have learned during the unit as they become immigrants for the day. Students come prepared with a complete file of documents, papers, answers to questions, and journal writings that support their personae for the day. Teachers act as “immigration officials” in a variety of roles: science teachers provide an infectious disease scan and discussion; Spanish teachers offer immigrant aid and translation help; the Diversity Office provides the Desk of Special Inquiry for various ethnic “immigrants”; science provides hospital options; and music runs a national anthem challenge. The following day, the students and teachers take a trip to New York, where students spent the day touring Ellis and Liberty Islands.

After two exhausting days, Grant returns to his home. But instead of lying on the couch and watching TV, he can’t wait to call his grandfather. “I understand the immigrants much better now,” he says. “Coming to America was so hard… was it like that for you?”

 
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