This is an eight day unit designed to introduce students to the experience of migration from one place of origin to one of destiny. This unit should be part of a theme on communities around the world. This unit assumes that children have been introduced to simple mapping skills in using a floor plan, neighborhood map, looking at the United States on a map and a globe, and finding directions. As each of these mapping skills was introduced, in conjunction, the concept of location, characteristics of place, relationship among places, movement, and regions would be developed. Thus, the definition of neighborhood, as parts of a community, where people live, work, and play; the way neighborhoods change over time; transportation of various kinds; and how communities vary in size and in the kinds of work that people do is something that the students have already been introduced to and understand (Parker, 1989). The previous concepts of communities and mapping skills are introduced and later reinforced using the countries and nationalities represented in their families and the classroom.
The way to empathize with and understand what the process of immigration means is through personal contact with someone who has gone through the experience. The use of literature can enhance and bring the first hand experiences of other children and immigrants into clear perspective. It also serves as a stepping stone to look at the process of immigration and meets the objectives stated earlier in the unit. Each of the following multi-structured lessons include an overview suggested grade level, curriculum focus area, materials, academic skills involved, and cooperative learning structures used. The lessons assume that the teacher and children are already familiarized with cooperative learning structures and working in cooperative groups.
On day 1 the unit begins by singing a song based on the traditional poem “José se llamaba el padre.” The poem tells us about the family members of a Puerto Rican family and their descendants. This song is followed by the picture story by Lada Josefa Kratky (Kratky, 1993) with the same name based on the same poem. In the picture story we read how Julia, a Puerto Rican school girl, who lives in New York, gets to meet her grandparents, great grand parents, and great great-grandparents through a picture album. Through out the story we see in real life pictures how Julia’s family was transformed from its origins in Puerto Rico to New York City where, Julia, our narrator presents us to her family. We meet her great great-grandparents, Juan and Juana, great-grandparents, Mar’a and Mario, grandparents, Ramonita & Ramón, and parents, José & Josefa. We read about the kinds of jobs they did, the lifestyles they shared, the customs they had, etc. The transformation takes us from Juan’s life as a farmer, in the countryside, to José’s life as a trucker and Josefa’s employment as a librarian in New York.
The story of “José se llamaba el padre” allows for the introduction and elaboration of the immigration process on Julia’s life. This is a family to whom children can relate as they search and rediscover the family they belong to. Since not everyone shares the same kind of nuclear family as portrayed in the book, it is left to the discretion of the educator to modify the following activities to conform to the individual family unit of the students. Thus, teachers might choose to only search the maternal or paternal relatives of those children who live in households headed by a single parent. The rest of the activities would then be followed for one or the other side of the family. Adoptive and foster children could view the immigration process through their adoptive and foster family.
On this day, the children take home a letter to the parents explaining how they are starting a unit on “families and communities around the world where we have close kin.” They are asked to fill in two genealogical trees, one for each side of the family, where they will write just the name of the relative going back three generations. They are also asked to send pictures of some of those relatives.
At this time children begin to find out who they are in relation to their family. They sort out how each one in the family is related to one another and use the labels for brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, niece, nephew, etc. They find out about how many brothers and sisters each of the parents have. They discover “new” names for parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents since these individuals are often called by loving familiar labels rather than their given names. Here learning takes place, not in the school, but in the house.
It is important that the children have the time to process and respond to the different information presented on immigration and their families. It is for this reason that the children keep a “traveling log” throughout the completion of the unit. The children write and make observations in these logs as they find information about themselves and their families, and as they travel, generation by generation, in their family history from a country or community of origin to one of destiny.
On day 2 the children reread the story “José se llamaba el padre” and focus on the town and country of origin of Julia’s relatives. More often than not one of the factors that facilitates emigration to another country is the kind of social networks that the immigrant has access to. This immigration network of relatives and friends serves as a source of information and hub for newcomers. It is not surprising to find many people from the same town emigrating and working in the same place and country (for information on social networks, see (Pessar, 1995)). On this day, the children are given two blank genealogical trees and instructed to copy the names of their relatives on them. This information has already been obtained the day before. Children familiarize themselves with the names of their three previous generations. The task for day 2 is to take home the trees with the names and interview their parents to find what region, town, country each of those members in the family originated from and if they knew someone in the country or community that they migrated to. If they cannot find the name of the town, the parents will be asked for basic coordinates to locate it (i.e. near the capital, or south of such and such a town).
Once the children have completed the task of finding the names of each relative’s town of origin, they are asked to have their parents locate the name of each of the towns in a map of that country of origin (maps of Puerto Rico, the United States, and the World will be provided to them by the school teacher). Each of the family generations is color coded and distinctly marked in this map which will show their classmates where their family members used to live.
On day 3 children share their maps and facts with their group and class. As a class the students locate in a map the different students’ nationalities in the classroom. In groups they sort the information by generation. First we look at the parents. Are they first, second, or third generation immigrants? In what country were they born? What are the names of the towns? Do they still live there? Did they already know anybody in the place they migrated to? The children answer these questions and discuss in groups the difficulties they had looking for the information. Through the activity children are challenged to identify and explore the role that such social networks played in their family migratory history. The teacher provides the students with time to write some of these observations down in their “traveling logs.” In cooperative groups they would repeat this procedure with each of the generations. They would begin with the country of birth for the first generation and end with the fourth generation. Each member of the group would transfer the location of each of their relatives country and town of origin onto a larger map following some simple rules. (i.e. the names of all the parents in blue, the grandparents in red, great grandparents in yellow, etc.). Each of the groups would follow this activity by presenting their findings to the rest of the class. As a class they graph and locate all the countries of origin in the classroom. The same is done with the names of the towns.
According to (Taylor, 1994) there are three major factors that influence economically motivated migration: demand-pull factors that bring immigrants into another country; supply push factors that encourage immigrants to leave their countries; and networks of friends and relatives that helps them in the search of new jobs and communities. Through the following activities the teacher indirectly assists the children to come up with each of these factors in their own words.
On this day the children reread the story and focus on the jobs that each of the family members do in “José se llamaba el padre.” Some of the questions we want to answer are: Why do people work? What do you need to know to do that job? What happens when there is no work in your community? Are there any differences in the kind of jobs that people do? Who can and can’t do a job?. Children rewrite the names of their relatives in the blank genealogical trees and at home they attempt to learn the types of jobs their relatives did and the reasons why (where applicable) they moved to a different community or country.
On day 4, children share the information pertaining to each relative’s employment first with their groups and later with the class. Each group writes a list of the jobs their relatives did and the reasons why they migrated if that was the case. The groups list the jobs performed, sorted by each of the generations. Are there any differences in each generation between the jobs that the women and the men do? What might be some of the reasons? Do more women work in the second or the third generation? What kind of jobs did our great grandparents do? What are the differences in the kinds of jobs obtained in the past and now? Why did people have to leave their communities and countries three generations ago? What about one generation ago? What are the similarities and differences you start to see between your family, Julia’s, and the ones in your group?
The main objective is not only to have the students discover patterns that would help them understand how their relatives went through the process of immigration from one community or country to another, but also in searching for answers to questions regarding their own families and this process.
The individual groups would follow by presenting to the class a list of the most common jobs in each generation and the reasons they gave to move on elsewhere. A list with all the reasons why people in their families had to emigrate to a different community or country is written for the whole class. The ideas of differences and similarities of experiences among the different families in the classroom is discussed and added to the class findings.
The idea of upward mobility would then be introduced to the class in the discussion of the range of jobs immigrants obtained in the past and now. The lives of some children of immigrants who went onto have important positions in government (e.g., John F. Kennedy) and industry (e.g., Lee Iococa) could be used as examples to introduce the concept.
The class at this time would reread the story of “José se llamaba el padre” and would look at how they arrived to the new country and what they took with them. Before the children go home, they fill another two genealogical trees with the names of their relatives to find out how their relatives migrated to the country or community of destiny and some of the most important things they took with them. They also draw a two sided picture. On the left hand side they draw what their house looked like in the country of origin and in the right side their house in the country of destiny.
On day 5, children share the information regarding how they migrated first with their groups and then with the class. How did the majority of the relatives of the migrating generation travel to the country? What are the most important things they brought with them? What did they leave behind? Each of the groups compiles the information in three lists to present to the class. As a group they discuss some of the reasons why their ancestors took certain items and left others behind. The children individually write down in their “traveling logs” what they learned about how their family traveled to the new community and what they took. The teacher would then discuss with the students past and contemporary ways of travel by immigrants: how the Europeans needed to take long trips on boats to cross the Atlantic Ocean and the perils of Mexicans having to journey by foot across the border. In talking about contemporary ways such as the plane, the teacher would make reference to the fact that some desperate immigrants now risk their lives by navigating long distances on boats, rafts, etc. such as in the case of Haitians, Dominicans, and Cubans. Finally they would compile as a class a list with all the this information.
Children, individually, make their own list of the 10 most important things to bring with you when you move to a new country and the reasons to do so.
In order for the children to understand that this nation is a nation of immigrants, on day 6, the children, in cooperative groups, create a questionnaire that they use to interview someone in the school, or home community such as the custodian, cafeteria worker, grocery owner, neighbor, etc. The questions are based on the genealogical tree information brought from home to school throughout the week. The children select the most important questions and make up the questionnaire as a group. They follow up, by interviewing at least one person, and writing the responses to their questionnaire to present to the class on day 8.
Children role play what it is like to arrive to a new country based on what they know of their experience. They use all the information gathered through out the week. As part of the culminating activity, the children make a book of their relatives and title it with their father’s or mother’s name as in “José se llamaba el padre.” The personal narrative is added to their final book.
For many immigrants, Ellis Island, an immigration center opened in 1892, became the first stop on their journey to America. On this day the children discover similar stories to theirs and that of their families by exploring the Electronic Ellis Island: a virtual heritage museum in the World Wide Web. The students are to log to the Virtual Ellis Island Museum (see computer resources) and are asked to read and print for the class at least three stories, written by children from different countries about their families’ immigrant history. They need to answer the following questions when reading the narratives: Who is writing the story? Who is it about? From what country did they emigrate? When did they emigrate? Did they arrive at Ellis Island? Why did they emigrate? Where do they live now? How does it compare to the experience of their family? Are there any similarities?.
Using these narrative as samples, the students proceed to work on their own. The children use the information gathered throughout the previous days concerning their immigrant roots and write about themselves and their families. The personal narrative is added to their final book.
On this day, children present to the class oral reports of their narratives from the previous day as well as the interview of a member of the community. They present it first to the members in their group who make suggestions regarding the presentation. Children make any necessary changes and, from each of the groups, one of the personal narratives and one of the interviews is selected to be presented to the whole class. This interview and personal narrative become part of their book created on day 6.
The children are given time to work on their “traveling logs” to write down their observations on the questionnaires and the personal narrative.
Finally, the children compile all the genealogical trees, maps, drawings, interviews, lists and personal narrative into the final book—a book about themselves, their ancestors, and community retelling their story from a country of origin to a country of destiny.