Immigrants for a Day

By Alexandra Zaloga ’16

Over the past month, Mr. Switzer’s eighth-grade American history class has been studying immigration. We started out learning about push-pull factors of immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s. We studied Ellis Island and the hardships that all immigrants had to go through, especially once they arrived in America and began searching for jobs and trying to make a living.

Eighth-grade "immigrants" enjoy a lunch of Italian and Polish food.


Alexandra Zaloga tries to read Japanese characters as part of an "eye exam."

Alexandra and other class members had to answer questions during the Immigration Day admission process.

After learning about these topics, we participated in Immigration Day, where we all came dressed as immigrants. Everyone brought in an ethnic food like Polish pierogies and Italian pizza.





After lunch, we all went through a simulation of Ellis Island, where international students came from the Upper School and made us undergo the different examinations, such as eye exams or basic knowledge tests, that the immigrants experienced.



We really understood how the immigrants who didn’t speak English felt, because the Upper School students asked us questions not in English but in their native languages! We walked around frustrated and confused because we could not understand them.


The day after Immigration Day we took a field trip to the real Ellis Island in New York City. It was so cool to see the medical exam rooms, the old artifacts people brought over, and the Great Hall where everyone was processed. We walked down the stairs of separation and read manuscripts of interviews with immigrants. Now we all really appreciate and understand the struggles our ancestors went through to come to America.

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