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Immigration is a great topic to bring social studies alive with local and
national demographic information, a survey of current political discussion
as well as bringing student family stories into the classroom. 


Our 3-5th grades did a month-long immigration unit last year, starting when
each student created a character who wished to come to US, for various
reasons, with various successes along various routes of legal and illegal
immigration.  Using contemporary statistics on immigration,  teachers created something like "luck of
the draw" cards that student/immigrants drew to which their character's had
to respond.  

Another great tool for local information is to delve into online census
information, presented by zip code.especially as pertaining to immigration
and linguistic diversity.  One slam-dunk tech lesson is to have students go
to <>  to extract
those elements pertaining to immigration.


Concurrent to the immigration "game", students were queried into family
country-of-origin stories. Rather than creating a forest of "family tree" we
mapped something closer to a global network of how we, in our collective
identity, came to be who we are today.  This is a significant variation from
family-tree drawings that leave many families puzzling how their family
structure is best represented. Families grown through adoption, remarriage
and divorce, as well as and children living with custodial non-parent
families are just some who may find a traditional family tree just a bit
tricky to "climb." It is also worth noting that in any unit on immigration,
the history of Native American families in our communities can serve as
anchor.and springboard into further historical inquiry into the genetic
history of the human family.


We also spent time with local immigrants-rights issues and queried families
for immigration stories of their own. One parent in our classes last year
was a lawyer who defends immigrants from deportation, featured in a film
"Sentenced Home" and we enjoyed an afternoon with partial a film screening
and Q&A:  


Part of the success in engaging our students spring boarded from the series
of immigrants-rights marches and rallies that were organized nationally last
year, two of which began from our school's Seattle neighborhood. Your class
may not be able to repeat that for a galvanizing event.but everywhere there
are local manifestations of the immigrant experience in America. 

Finally, let me quote the chorus to "Immigrant" a fine folk song C1999 John
McCutcheon/Appalsongs (ASCAP)

She said, "Give me your tired"/ Lord, you know I'm weary
When she said "Give me your poor"/She's talking to me
One of your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
And I never have lost sight of what this journey has been for
See how she lifts her lamp beside that golden door.


Craig Seasholes

Librarian, Giddens School

620 20th Ave S.

Seattle, WA  98144

work  206 324-4847 *818



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