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Students experience life as immigrants

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November 19, 2007

Cairo--  Southside Elementary teachers in Cairo put their students through an immigration simulation.   The teachers say educating their students about the immigrants who came through Ellis Island the way they are really brings the lesson to life.

The 5th graders at Southside Elementary weren't quite themselves today.  "I'm actually a 56-year-old woman, immigrant from Germany," says Aubrey Gainous.  Her classmate Chance Bishop adds, I'm an 11-year-old boy from Poland and my mom and dad and sister are coming to America."

Each student was given a backstory; their life as an immigrant.  And much like in real life, not everyone is equal.  "We've divided the classes into first class, second class and the steerage, trying to make the accomodations as well as the experiences they had in each section very lifelike," explains teacher Babs Walden.

While first class were served treats, those in steerage got the idea of the close quarters on the way to America.  "Now I know that its just everybody crowded in one room and if you get a bed or not, that's just how lucky you are," Gainous says.

The teachers incorporated lessons from each subject into the simulation.  "We have something from every subject area in our process as we go through the day," Walden says.  For math, students graphed immigration populations.  For language arts wrote in journals their experience and how it felt to be an immigrant.

"We're understanding that America, we're all immigrants and we have brought and made America what it is today from all of these experiences," says Walden.  Their teachers hope it may also make them more appreciative for what their ancestors went through.  "I'm glad I was born in America," says Gainous.

"If I don't remember anything else I'll remember this," says Bishop.  And with Thanksgiving right around the corner, its one more thing these boys and girls say they're thankful for this year.

 

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