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Irvington Students Recreate Immigrant Experiences Through Ellis Island

Fourth-graders at Main Street School role-played as European immigrants during the school’s annual Immigration Day on June 3.
Fourth-graders at Main Street School role-played as European immigrants during the school’s annual Immigration Day on June 3. Photo Credit: Contributed

IRVINGTON, N.Y. -- Fourth-grade students at Main Street School, who had been studying the great wave of European immigration to the United States through Ellis Island during the 1900s, reenacted the immigrants’ experiences during the school’s annual Immigration Day on Friday, June 3.

Dressed in period clothing and with passports in hand, the students role-played as European immigrants, while parent volunteers and teachers served as official inspectors and immigration agents.

The students rotated through a variety of stations, including mock medical examinations, intensive personal interviews, baggage inspections, rejected passport applications and mock deportations, that replicated the uncertainties immigrants faced.

“We study immigration in the classroom, but this really brings it alive and makes it real,” said fourth-grade teacher Danielle Lee, who added that students were asked to research and share an immigrant’s experience through Ellis Island and bring in three prized possessions.

“It makes them put themselves in the shoes of an immigrant during the 1900s, and the learning really sticks with them. It becomes genuine and it’s fun, but at the same time, the amount they learn is remarkable.”

Students said the interactive experience put their history studies into context and they could understand what the immigrants felt like at the time.

Fourth-grader Kenna Bradley, whose great, great, great grandma came from Ireland on a ship around 1907, said she learned that immigration inspectors were strict.

“I felt like I was walking in her shoes because I can understand what happened to her,” Bradley said. “I like how [the teachers] made it really realistic and it’s almost like the real Ellis Island experience. I think [the immigrants] felt a little nervous and excited to be in a new land.”

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