The reenactment allows students to experience what it could have been like to move to a new country. Each student selects a fictional name and a nationality. Many students wear clothing that reflect the historical and cultural background, as well as their nationality. Some PCS students are second or third generation immigrants, so studying this is very personal. One student even brought her grandfather’s suitcase - her grandfather entered Ellis Island using that suitcase!
Immigrants move to new countries for many reasons - famine, war, religious or racial persecution, and for an opportunity to seek a better life. Integral to the day was learning these many reasons, and personalizing it by creating a past, and acting the part of their chosen character.
All three second grade classes begin their journey in a ship (the school basketball court) where teacher Mrs. Hotchkiss set the stage for what the journey would have been like - pitching ships in stormy weather, and disgusting bathroom conditions!
Each immigrant student carries their passport (note the blue books in their hands) and luggage off the ship (leaving the basketball court and entering the school lobby). As immigrants, they walk down the hallway to view the Statue of Liberty. Ms. Caldwell, student support specialist dressed up as “Lady Liberty” while students sing a song about coming to America.
Leaving the luggage in the “Baggage Room” upon arrival to “Ellis Island”, immigrants enter the “Great Hall.” The classroom has different stations. Family volunteers man each station. Their roles are convincing, especially as the first station is the “Interview with the Government Inspector.” Volunteer grandparents play a realistic role asking very penetrating questions about reasons for entering the USA.
Immigrant students then go to the “Hospital” for a medical exam. They have their eyesight and their physical abilities checked.
Then they go to a station to exchange their foreign currency for US dollars.
Finally, their passports are stamped for official entry into the country. Whew!
This hand-on experience is something PCS believes is important for the second graders, to help them build empathy and acceptance for others. We are grateful to the many teachers, staff and volunteers who help make this a meaningful experience for our students!