Ellis Island Activity Teaches Immigration Lessons

Dressed as poor immigrants, third-graders at Wading River Elementary School brought U.S. immigration history to life on May 30 through a full-day Ellis Island simulation.

The students, with their teachers posing as ship captains, spent most of the morning under their desks, imagining they were traveling to America from various countries in the cramped steerage deck of a ship. There, they ate snacks, did schoolwork, bartered for the return of their passports and tried not to get “seasick.”

Upon their arrival to “Ellis Island” in the afternoon, the students were led to the school’s all-purpose room, which was transformed into an Ellis Island registry, complete with stations run by parent volunteers for check-in and health inspections, and even a quarantine area.

Students moved from station to station with the hope of receiving “citizenship.” They also took an oath, delivered by Principal Stephen Donohue, to uphold the laws of America, work hard and pay their taxes.

“This hands-on simulation is a great way for students to learn and is something that they will hopefully never forget,” said Donohue.