With the help of Honors American History students from Westlake High School, Holly Lane Elementary School was turned into Ellis Island, with students adopting the life of an Irish, Italian, Polish, Chinese, Russian or Syrian immigrant. Students assumed the life of a specific ethnic family to learn about their life, family and issues that prompted them to leave their country.
The project focuses on the fourth-grade International Baccalaureate Planner: Where We are in Place and Time – an inquiry into orientation in place and time; personal histories; homes and journeys; discoveries, explorations and migrations of humankind; the relationships between the interconnectedness of individuals and civilizations, from local and global perspectives.
Piazza said project-based learning motivates students to gain knowledge and remember it longer.
“Projects gives students the chance to apply the skills they learn in school to personally relevant and real-world situations,” Piazza said. “Students also learn how to think critically, solve problems, work in teams and make presentations. These skills will help students succeed in the future, both in school and in today’s work world.”
Through this project, students went through a series of lessons to better help them understand what it was like to make a decision to leave one’s homeland, to travel to the United States by ship, go through Ellis or Angel Island, and settle in a new country. Students will compare and contrast immigration experiences over time.
On Feb. 1, Holly Lane Elementary School was turned into Ellis Island. Immigrant families walked to different stations for medical and eye examinations and the interview process to earn admittance to the United States. Some immigrants were rejected and had to plead for admittance in front of the Immigration and Naturalization Service panel of judges. High school students acted as immigration officers, inspectors and physicians. They tagged immigrants, evaluated the overall physical health of each immigrant, or acted as INS officials to hear final pleas and make decisions on admittance or denying passage.