U.S. immigration policy has dominated the news in recent months. In early January, fourth graders at Ethical Culture began their comprehensive study of immigration, a core component of the grade's social studies curriculum. As part of the study, students attended a presentation this week by four members of the school community, each of whom spoke at length about their immigrant journey to this country.
The presentation, which took place in Ceremonial Hall on January 24, featured EC principal Rob Cousins, who is from England; a fourth-grade parent who hails from Turkey; and two grandparents of fourth graders (one was born in Iraq and lived in Switzerland for an extended period before emigrating to the United States, the other is the child of a Lithuanian Holocaust survivor and was born in Mexico). Each presenter told his immigrant tale and answered students' questions.
Next week, the fourth graders will conduct small-group interviews with other individuals in the ECFS community and hear about their immigrant experience. In preparation, students have been learning the difference between closed- and open-ended questions. The interview activity will provide them with an opportunity to learn basic journalism practices and also reinforces important social skills.
"In order for students to gain a better understanding of modern-day immigration," explained teacher Liba Bronstein-Schwartz, "the immigration study will then look at some of the major waves of immigration to the United States—Irish, Italian, Eastern European Jewish, Chinese—beginning in the 19th century. We'll also study some of the lesser-told immigration stories."
Two writing assignments figure prominently in the immigration study: one is an essay on a major immigration wave, for which students will conduct research; the other is a creative-writing assignment in which the fourth graders will write a first-person take on an immigration experience from the perspective of the immigrant. Field trips to places such as Ellis Island, the Tenement Museum, the Museum of Chinese in America, and the Jewish Museum, among others, complement the study.
The immigration study will conclude with a community-service project in partnership with KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), an organization that provides legal representation and other support to unaccompanied immigrant and refugee children in their deportation proceedings. "We're going to work with KIND, with whom we've partnered in the past, to support them in ways they need," noted Bronstein-Schwartz.