The first week of December marked what has gained a reputation as the most memorable day of elementary school around here – Ellis Island Immigration Day. The children spend their entire school day immersed in Ellis Island in a spectacular event. The teachers and volunteers did an incredible job creating this experience for the students, and creatively teaching them about this time in America’s history by walking the walk.
I volunteered as a monitor. I floated the halls and escorted immigrants to places like Special Inquiry, checked passports, kept the peace and intervened when issues arose at the checkpoints. Even the volunteers dressed for the occasion.
The students assumed new identities for the day – John was Albert from Sweden. He traveled with his two brothers. They hoped to be farmers and came with quite a bit of money. Their older brother was inheriting their family business in Sweden so they came in search of a better life in the United States.
Period dress was requested, no backpacks or modern day accouterments were allowed. They could carry suitcases and pillowcases, handbags and baskets.
They made their way through multiple rooms, interviews, appointments and processes during the day. Each was run by parent volunteers.
After passing through all of the checkpoints, Albert was thrilled to receive his stamp of approval.
After a meager lunch, the lucky ones celebrated by Lady Liberty and the throwing of their caps!
Many were hassled, some were deported and most were welcomed into the United States. Some families were separated, a few felt their treatment was unfair and ALL were moved by the experience. It was a great day!
PS. I know other schools do something similar and I have gotten a ton of questions about our outfits. I had the plaid shirt and shawl. John used the knickers from his Paul Revere costume, a black vest we had, and men’s tube socks (WalMart). The other items are linked here:
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DIXIE DELIGHTS DELIVERED