Immigration Unit: Liberty Island Discussion

There's nothing like GENUINE interest from your students when you're a teacher.  :)

We are wrapping up our unit on immigration, and we've been reading Coming to America:  The Study of Immigration by Betsy Maestro.  We got to the section in that talks about Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty.  The kids had SO many questions and fun facts about it!

"What is it made of?"
"Did you know it's from France?"
"What do you mean the Statue of Liberty is not on Ellis Island?"
"How tall is it?  Bigger than an SUV?"

But even more interesting was our debate on the regulation of immigration.  A line in the book says that at one point, people from some countries were not allowed in, at the same time that people from other countries were.  When I asked why the United States would pass this regulation, a lot of misconceptions came up.  Similarly, when I asked why they thought inspectors would need to check people who were coming in, I got a lot more "grown up" answers than I was anticipating:

"To make sure people didn't have guns?"

I wouldn't be the one to bring up those sort of topics with 10 year olds, but my philosophy is, once the cat is out of the bag, acknowledge it, but in a way that makes kids feel safe.  So I answered, "I feel like it's a sad sign of the times that those are the sort of things that you kids, and, well, we all have to worry about when we travel.  So nowadays we do have people who work in the airports airports to make sure those things don't come in to the country.  But back then, before airplanes, none of those things were their main worry.  What they were checking for was...symptoms of contagious diseases!" kids still had trouble wrapping their head around that.

"So they wouldn't check them for guns?  They'd just let them through!?"
"I'm not saying that.  I'm saying, back then not as many people HAD guns."
"So they wouldn't let you in if you had cancer?"
"Cancer isn't contagious.  Contagious means you can catch it from someone.  If you are around someone with cancer, you won't get cancer.  Most of the contagious diseases they were worrying about then are not around anymore because they have vaccines and medicines that got rid of them."

So to get a feel for life back then, we ended with plays (semi-improv by the kids) that acted out different scenarios on Ellis Island, and went to lunch on a high note.  Even though I feel like I have less and less time for Social Studies every year, it's a really fun unit.  I have my materials for it available in my Immigration Unit product, and you can find Coming to America:  The Story of Immigration, on Amazon:


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