Friday, 26 February 2010

K-12: history of American immigration

Aimed at 5th Grade students, this website teaches children about the migration period during the years 1820 - 1924 and the experiences that immigrants had while being inspected at Ellis Island outside of New York City.

The interactive nature of the website combined with the enthusiastic language used conveys that immigration in America is celebrated in schools. For example, students are given the task of interviewing a person who is an immigrant from another country to the US and publishing their story on the internet for others to read. Such quotes as "the greatest migration period of the United States history" and "You will understand why the United States is called the nation of all nations" also establishes a positive and almost patriotic tone on the subject.

Students are asked to define vocubulary focusing on the journey that immigrants faced including "ferry" and "steerage" and the only country that is requested to be defined is Poland. Interestingly, students are asked to summarise Relive a Boy's Journey, a story about Seymour Rechtzeit, a Polish boy who immigrated to America and there is an emphasis on these factors as students are instructed to understand how he travelled to America and what problems he and his father faced in New York. The focus on Poland is perhaps due to the fact that when America was transforming from an agricultural to industrial society, Polish immigrants supplied a wave of manpower whom assisted this and are therefore celebrated. Also, by questioning students about the relationship between him and his struggling father, the portrayal of immigration as an opportunity for youth to rise is clear as he helps him financially by becoming a successful actor and singer in the US.

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