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"Immigration Day" Teaches Homer Brink Fourth Graders About Ellis Island

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Students at Homer Brink Elementary got a firsthand lesson in what it was like to be an immigrant in the 1900’s during their annual Immigration Day.

Over 100 students participated and chose a country, a new name, and an occupation and set sail on their American adventure.

Jody Fiorentino, a fourth-grade teacher at Homer Brink, said it is a part of their Social Studies standards to learn about Ellis Island and the trials that immigrants had to go through.

“We do a little bit of a reenactment where the kids are given a country that they’re from, a new name, and they are going through a simulation of a medical exam, a mental exam, all the different kinds of exams that they would have went through at Ellis Island years ago.”

The gazebo in the front of the school acted as the Ellis Island boat, with students walking off to their exams, getting a feel for what their ancestors did all those decades ago.

“It’s where we all came from and it’s how America came to be, but another aspect of this is we do learn stories of immigrants today, so they can learn just about the differences and the similarities of why people still really want to come to America and have a better life.”

The exercise also aims to teach students the role that New York played, and let them put their knowledge of their state’s history to the test.

“They’re learning that it was a real struggle and it still is for many people who are trying to make this their home. I hope that they can have some empathy and learn a little bit more about that.”