Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Coming to America/ the Statue of Liberty

Beginning in 1999, 3rd graders at our school have studied immigration, Coming to the USA : Ellis Island, a simulation project begun by 3rd grade teacher, Sylvia Leong.  This year we added Angel Island, since families who emigrated from Asia & Australia entered the U.S. from our west coast (not Ellis Island).  In conjunction with this study students wrote about their own ancestors' journeys to America.

Angel Island immigrants.  Photo from
Ellis Island immigrant, 1907.  Photo from

This year, I researched immigrant costume from the early 1900's, and our art teacher helped students draw pictures of their ancestors  as they may have looked when going through the Immigration Inspection Stations.  As in previous years, the students wrote letters to family members whom they left back in the old country and explained their journeys & new lives.

Thank you, Mrs. Stiles, for developing this great art activity!
After studying Coming to the USA, the entire 3rd grade along with MANY of their parents & a few grandparents,  reenacted  their ancestors’ journey to Ellis Island/Angel Island.  They went through the immigration process including the  steamship ride, seeing the Statue of Liberty for the 1st time, having their passports checked, being inspected for diseases, taking a literacy test, exchanging currency, being detained, mailing a letter home from the post office, buying fruit & bread, playing games while waiting for other family members to be processed, and finally being allowed to enter the country & purchasing a ferry and possibly train ticket to travel to their final destination.  Everyone dressed in period clothing.

Students expressed feelings that the reenactment seemed  very real to them.  Some students were worried that they would be turned away since they had learned that some immigrants were sent back home.
In the end all of our immigrants were accepted into the U.S.  Their adventure ended with the songs, "Hello Ellis Island", "America",  and  "Coming to America",
with the help of their music teacher, Mrs. Waldman.

Our "Coming to America" simulation is one of the highlights of our students' elementary school experience.  Upon 5th grade culmination it is often sited as a favorite grade school memory.  It would not be possible without a lot of parent enthusiasm & participation, and the dedication of parents willing to organize & participate in the event.


 Inspired by the blog, we heart art:  Election Day, by Joanna Davis,  I led my students in a direct drawing project of the Statue of Liberty.  On Ellis Island Day they saw Lady Liberty in New York Harbor, and she recited her poem to them.
Our drawings were done with blue crayon on green construction paper, (although you can't really tell the color from my photos.)   Unfortunately, I have poor photography skills, but the kids did great!

1 comment:

  1. I love the drawings of the students' ancestors in their native costumes. Also, the simulation of their ancestors' journey to Ellis Island/Angel Island is an awesome idea! The drawings of the Statue of Liberty turned out great. Thank you for sharing.