From Immigration through Ellis Island to Refugees in Germany: Learning About Migrations in 3rd Grade

Events · December 8, 2016

The 3rd Grade is currently engaged in their second unit of inquiry, "Migrations". This unit gives students an opportunity to explore their personal family histories, and to discover more about the migrations that millions of people have made to New York City.

As part of their unit work, the students went on field trips to Ellis Island and the Tenement Museum, where they learned more about the people who immigrated to the United States in the 19th century and how these people were living after they entered the country.

Students searched for the names of their relatives on the American Immigrant Wall of Honor at Ellis Island.

Students have been learning that such migrations are not just events of the past but a reality for many people today, both in the United States and in many other parts of the world. 3rd Grade French Head Teacher Molida Khuon has been introducing her class to the current migrant situation in Europe. “This unit is great for making global connections and talking about the current news. Our class learned about the ‘Jungle de Calais’, the large encampment for refugees in the northern part of France. We discussed how the camp was recently destroyed and how the refugees and migrants needed to find homes all over France.”

The students also learned about Germany’s open door policy for asylum-seeking refugees and Germany’s efforts to further integrate these refugees into German life. Artist Valeria Mogilevich came and spoke to the 3rd Graders about a handbook she created called "How to Start a Conversation with a Refugee".  Valeria created this handbook in partnership with Artist Douglas Paulson as part of an artist's residency with CAT Cologne in Cologne, Germany. The handbook was aimed at encouraging Germans to engage in conversations with refugees, to get to know the refugees' stories, and to help the newcomers feel welcome and included in Germany.

Valeria read aloud from her booklet and answered student questions such as: How many refugees did she speak to? Was there ever a time that someone didn't want to have a conversation with her? And why did she choose to print her booklet in Arabic, German, and English?

“It was such a pleasure presenting to the group. Their questions to me were so thoughtful. I was also so impressed by all the great connections they were making between the booklet and their recent work on migration and family history. I could hear them putting all the pieces together, and that was really inspiring to watch.” -Valeria

After Valeria’s visit, 3rd Graders were asked to reflect on what they had learned about her experiences making this booklet.

Valeria a écrit un livre pour que les Allemands et les immigrées puissent communiquer ensemble. Elle a questionné 30 migrants pour qu’elle puisse avoir des idées de ce que les migrants pensent des Allemands. -Manu

Valeria a écrit un livre pour que ça soit plus facile de parler aux réfugiés. -Safira 

Valeria a interrogé 30 personnes, Elle a écrit un livre “Comment commencer une conversation avec un réfugié”. Elle l’a écrit en trois langues. -Marion

Valeria a interrogé beaucoup de réfugiés. Elle a interrogé 30 réfugiés. Elle avait un peu peur au début. C’est bien que la plupart parlait anglais. Si quelqu’un ne parlait pas anglais, elle utilisait “Google translate”. Elle était surprise que personne n’ait demandé aux réfugiés d’où ils venaient. -Inès

J’ai retenu qu’elle a fait un livre sur comment commencer une conversation avec un réfugié”. Elle a écrit ce livre à Cologne en Allemagne. Elle avait peur de fâcher les gens alors elle n’a parlé que du présent mais tout le monde avait envie de parler de leurs expériences. -Galen

Thank you to Valeria her visit, and to the 3rd Grade team for organizing experiences that help to foster empathy and global-mindedness in our students.