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Fourth Grade Immigration Day Marches On

Tutt Stapp-McKiernan

Tradition marches on in the spring, and a beloved spring institution of the 4th-grade academic year is Immigration Day.

An extension of the 4th grader’s study of history, Immigration Day is an exercise in “living history” in which students get to imagine the immigrant experience at the heart of U.S. culture and identity by role-playing a truncated version of the experience of coming to America through Ellis Island. With adults in the school community playing the roles of various customs officials, the costumed students, moving in groups of five or six through a series of destinations all over campus, go through an entire school day of hurdles to clear—inspections on their intentions in coming to America, their financial wherewithal, their intended professions, their health, and importantly, their knowledge of the governing document of the United States, the Constitution. It’s all in good fun—but it can also feel very real, a balance that is carefully designed into the project by its faculty architects.

At the end of the day, after a performance for parents of songs representative of the countries of origin of many of the “immigrants,” the individuals who arrived that morning on the Good Ships Italia, Bodden, Breton, and Journey, having passed all their inspections, are administered the official oath and become U.S. citizens at last. A luscious international feast follows. It is a great day in the 4th-grade year, one that few ever forget.

Click here for a sampling of images.