New York State of Mind: The Eighth Grade Visits the Big Apple to Explore Immigration

The Class of 2027 got into the New York state of mind on a trip to the Big Apple, offered for the first time since 2019.

“This trip has been a favorite academic experience for our girls since 2009, when a group of teachers used a summer growth grant to plan an interdisciplinary trip that incorporated elements from history, science, and english,” said history teacher Ann Ramsey. “Life skills, problem solving, and teamwork are also added into the activities.” As a pre-travel introduction to concepts about modern immigration, the girls read “Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood” by Trevor Noah over the summer months. 

An enduring question explored in AIS eighth grade history classes is, “Who is an American?” The girls learn that the definition of "American" expands beyond the Western Europeans from the time of the country's founding. Studying the second wave of U.S. immigration in the U.S. from 1880 to 1920 through those who passed through Ellis Island helps students understand how the concepts of race and social hierarchy change over time. “They also learn about ways that immigrants were marginalized before being embraced in American society,” said Corey Willingham, Interim Middle School Director.

In New York, the students were given "family groups'' of different ethnicities that were represented during the second wave. They researched some of the push and pull factors of immigration at that time — what was occurring in their home countries that pushed them away and what they sought in the U.S. They searched the Ellis Island databases, identifying immigrants from their ethnicity and locale who made the trip. Then, the "families" played simulation games where they went through some of the experiences that immigrants faced as they arrived in America, including a mock physical and mental evaluation, an oral examination, and other situations that mimicked the disorientation immigrants may have felt upon arriving. 

The students also explored the Lower East Side, the most common landing place for new immigrants to America in NYC, and toured the Eldridge Street Synagogue and Museum to learn about that vibrant and dynamic community. The trip was topped off with a Midtown Manhattan scavenger hunt, visits to Carnegie Hall, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, lunch at a restaurant based on their “family’s” ethnic culture, and a Broadway show – this year’s selection was “Hadestown."

*Special thanks to our contributing photographers, the Class of 2027 and our teacher-chaperones! 

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