Students step into the shoes of immigrants


By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

BETTENDORF — Third-graders participated in an interactive event to reenact what it was like to come to America in the late 1800s and early 1900s through Ellis Island in New York.

Anne Marie Amacher
Third-grader Alyssa Verduzco is checked by Sara Hernandez during a mock immigration physical exam at Lourdes Catholic School in Bettendorf. The third-graders participated in an interactive immigration event as the culmination of their studies on immigration to America and Ellis Island.

Inside the media center at Lourdes Catholic School, the students entered their new “homeland” during the April 24 event. Parent volunteers ran the stations.
Teacher Jen Burman said the immigration project is one of her favorite things to do while teaching third grade. “It gives the kids the opportunity to explore their heritage, learn where their ancestors came from, learn about their culture and learn about their backgrounds.”

At the first station, students were asked why they were coming to America and to name the president of the United States.


Students checked their “passports” at the second station. They made passports ahead of time that contained their photos, information on the country they had left, their trade back home and other information. Immigration “authorities” checked the student passports to make sure they were complete. Immigrants were also asked about their reading and writing skills. If they passed the questioning, their passports were stamped with an approval stamp.

Physical exams took place at the next station. Examiners checked eye sight, for lice and for immigrants’ balance, among other health aspects. If a student “failed,” he or she was sent to the quarantine area. Students learned later whether they would be sent back to their homeland or would be able to enter the United States at a later date.
Students who moved on made a stop at the waiting station to wait for the “boat” to head to New York City. At this station, parents read a book on Ellis Island.

The immigration experience culminated with a food station. Students brought foods of the country they were representing. Examples included Bavarian meatballs, Irish soda bread, coconut pudding from Puerto Rico and gummy bears from Germany. Burman said students had the option to dress in attire from the country they chose.

Third-grader James Porter said the examination station was his favorite. “I had to do balance. It was hard. I was put in quarantine, but I got permission to go.”

Regarding the food, he said the squash meatball was “fine,” but the Gouda cheese was his favorite. He brought it in to represent the Netherlands.

Noah Dyer liked the exam station as well. “They had us do all sorts of tests.”

Isaac Zude said the food was his favorite part. He didn’t finish all of the food items, but at least tasted them. At first he really liked the Bavarian meatballs because of the sweet sauce. But then he decided they were just “OK.”

Brennen Walzer, who also liked the physical examination station, had to go to quarantine like several other classmates. “But I don’t think it would have been fun if this were for real coming into the U.S.,” he said.

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