A Unit Study
America is made up of immigrants and their descendants. They left their homelands looking for a better life. Their experiences of hardship, sacrifice, #determination, and great #hope still #inspire us today.
We began our unit study of Ellis Island by watching a short documentary on YouTube. There are tons of them! I like to give the kids a visual of our topic to catch their interest.
I used what we homeschool families call “living books.” That means, we use lots of library books! Here are just a few that we enjoyed with this unit.
After reading a few good books and gaining a little more understanding of the hardships that the immigrants faced, I had the children pack their bags…yes, to leave their home, family, and friends to travel to an unknown land…in hopes of a better life.
Each child had to pick an country of origin where they completed a report which included facts about their country, their family, their occupations and why they are choosing to leave for America. Then we boarded the ship (my couch!).
Then, after a long, dark, stinky ride across the Atlantic Ocean (ocean sounds in the background) we finally landed on Ellis Island. From the deck of the ship we spotted the famous Statue of Liberty (on the big screen for us).
We paused to learn all about the history of the Statue of Liberty and even took a virtual tour.
Off the boat the kids scrambled (ok, into the living room-use your imagination) where they lived the experience of Ellis Island. Was there paperwork in order? What if they didn’t have enough money? Did they have any medical conditions? Did Victoria and Anna have a family member that would take responsibility for them (no single woman could be alone)? What if…after suffering hunger, having little to no money, and waiting in line for hours to pass an exam…they were sent back to their homeland?
Before they could reach the safety and shelter of the Statue of Liberty, they had to pass a battery of tests, with proctors checking their eyesight, combing their hair for lice, and grilling them on how and where they would find work.
The moment of #truth was nearing…did they have enough money to gain entry?
We learned that children, while waiting on Ellis Island, were taught English and were given blankets to keep warm. Once they family left Ellis Island we learned of the community life, the foods, the occupations, and the hardships.
Since immigrants brought over their customs, along with their foods, we decided to taste foods that would have been brought across the ocean….recipes such as Perogues from Poland, Eggplant Parmesan from Italy, Brautwurst from Germany, and Hungarian Goulash.
We listened to various music…such as Irish Hymns, Scottish bagpipes and the dances of the Europeans. We wrote letters home to our families telling all about our American adventure. We ended our study of immigrants by watching the movie:
Far and Away (we had to skip over a few scenes).
Ellis Island may not appear large on a map, but it is an unparalleled destination in our United States history. After welcoming more than 12 million immigrants to our shores, Ellis Island is now a symbol of the American Dream.
I hope you are inspired to create your own unit study. It's so much fun!
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