This past Thursday, November 15th, the 6th graders at Windermere School participated in the annual "Immigration Day", which is a full day simulation to Ellis Island.
This day helps teach students what it was like to be an immigrant coming to America through Ellis Island during the turn of the century.
The day combined many of the things the students had learned about for weeks in their classrooms regarding immigration.
The students, teachers and volunteers dressed in period clothing respresenting their culture. The students' first stop on their journey to America was checking into Ellis Island's Great Hall, which was held in the school main cafeteria and had to stand in long lines up to 45 minutes while acting "Immigrant agents" checked their passports and asked them many questions.
If the students answered the questions wrong they were sent to deportation. If the student played sick - and their were a few - they were also sent to be deported. The agents were quite stern with the kids. One agent spoke in a different language so that the students wouldn't be able to understand them, just as the real immigrants coming to America didn't understand the English speaking agents.
The students were also put through "medical exams" and checked for head lice like the immigrates experienced when they came to America.
They had to go to money exchange, where they found out whether they had $25 in American money, if they didn't they either borrowed it from a fellow immigrant or were deported.
Like many of third class immigrants that came to America, the students only had one bag with a few items inside. Each student was able to bring three special items with them to school that day, items such as a book, photo or special token mostly, that meant something to them. They each had the opportunity in their classrooms to share what personal items they brought, along with a brief story about that item.
The students were also entertained by a presentation of folk music from around the world and enjoyed a catered lunch of foods representing a variety of countries.
An incredible video, with a story narrated by a couple passengers who came over on a ship from Italy was shown to the students. I personally loved the video and thought it was very informative.
There was also a "Naturalization Ceremony" held at the end of the day. Students were told that Ellis Island remains a historic monument to remind each and every one of us that the United States has a long history of accepting newcomers to America.
This annual program truly lets the students grasp what some of their family members experienced on their journey to this great country and hopefully have a better appreciation for the world in which they live in now.