Coming to America

Students at Forest City-Dunbar participate in an immigration simulation.
Feb. 02, 2013 @ 05:19 AM

Where are you immigrating from? What do you plan to do to make a living in the United States?

Those were just some of the questions that third grade students at Forest City Dunbar Elementary School had to answer during their immigration simulation on Friday.

"They have been studying immigration this six weeks. We wanted to let them really experience what it was like," said Mary Metcalf, third grade teacher. "Today we are letting them see what it was really like at Ellis Island."

For the simulation, the students had to create their own immigration profile. The profile included their name, the county they were immigrating from and what they wanted to bring with them.

"I had tried this a couple of years ago with a class that I had, but not quite to this scale. It was on our Common Core Standards for this six weeks, so we tried to really amp it up and added to it so that it became what it was," said Joy VanDyke, third grade teacher.

The students experienced what it was like to go through Ellis Island by enduring a medical, legal, mental and doctor's exams in the registry room. The third grade teachers and some volunteers played the role of the officials giving the exams. They were tough on the students.

"They enjoyed it a whole lot. I think a lot of them were surprised. But I sat mine down before we started and told them that I loved them, but the purpose of this is to let you know what it was really like," VanDyke said. "I told them that I and all the officials are going to be tough on you because they had to be very abrupt, they had to move people through so quickly."

Students were not allowed to talk to each other while they waited to be examined.

"It was powerful because they really saw how serious and tough it was. I think they liked doing the personal interview the best. We had spent a lot of time studying immigrants and different reasons that they come and what countries they come from. We wanted them to be prepared with their backstory. We told them how important it was that their story matched the questions," VanDyke said. "If they had worked really hard this week, prepared a good backstory, and had memorized it, they could use their own creativity and bring it to life."