This week, students in the Yellow Cluster brought their history lessons to life as they played the part of immigrants coming to America through Ellis Island. In previous years, students took a field trip to the island, but this year the Yellow Cluster teachers found a creative solution to allow the students to take part in a multisensory exploration of what it was like to arrive in the United States through Ellis Island.
Prior to their trip to “Ellis Island – Gaynor Edition,” the students had studied about the history of immigration in their history classes. The students learned about their own immigration stories by asking their family members about their personal history. The students also got a taste of other immigration stories through videos submitted by Gaynor administrators.
Their journeys began as they left their homes across the seas with their families and few belongings, and “sailed” down Amsterdam Avenue toward Ellis Island. As they approached the island, they could spy the Statue of Liberty and her glowing torch welcoming them to their new home. This version of the statue was actually holding Gaynor Co-Founder Dr. Miriam Michaels’ doctoral dissertation instead of a tablet with the date of the Declaration of Independence in Roman numerals — an apt substitution!
Before they could finally enter the U.S., they needed to pass inspection first.
The students had learned in their classes about the difficulties immigrants faced as they arrived on Ellis Island, and this week they experienced some of those anxious moments. First, they faced stern Medical Examiners who ensured they were physically fit and free of disease. Then, they were questioned by Legal Inspectors to be sure they were truthful and capable of living life in America.
Head Teacher Kelsey Farrell said, “Multisensory, hands-on instruction is such a meaningful way to learn and an integral part of life at Gaynor. I am hopeful that the students will never forget this experience and their time spent at ‘Ellis Island.’”