Immigration Act - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Education

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Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2007 12:00 am

Jane Anderson's seventh-grade social studies classes went back in time Tuesday at Akimel A-al Middle School as students dressed as immigrants and experienced what the process of coming to the U.S. and landing in Ellis Island was like in the early 1900s. "I felt kind of confused in the beginning," 13-year-old Steven Archer said after the activity. Anderson said most students were confused with the process. "I asked them, 'How do you think the poor immigrants felt not being able to speak the language, just having left their families and all these people are staring at them and poking at them?'" Anderson said. "Until you live it, it's pretty hard to understand." Four classes participated in the activity throughout the day. Half of the class received a card with a number on it. The number assigned them as an immigrant from Scandinavia, Germany, Italy, Russia, Poland or Greece coming to the U.S. on the ship S.S. Rose from a port in Amsterdam. Each student knew their immigrant's age, sex, occupation, religion, health, education and political leanings. The remaining students were assigned as U.S. inspectors, doctors, interpreters and officials working on Ellis Island. Kyrene School District junior achievement teacher Tim Jensen quizzed students as they entered the room and approached the initial inspectors. Students were then sent to three doctor stations where they were checked for lameness, respiratory problems, overall body deformities, deafness, pregnancy, contagious diseases and trachoma, an eye disease that, if contracted, resulted in immediate deportation. Students could be sent to the detainment doctor or hospital doctor depending on the illness they had, and students who made it through the process were given a landing card and signed a loyalty oath. "Think about it, wouldn't you be afraid?" Anderson told students. "You go to one doctor and you get poked around, then the next doctor is inspecting you for diseases and flicking your eye up. Wouldn't you think, 'Oh my gosh, I'm in this new country and all these people are looking at me?'" Anderson told students that Ellis Island processed 5,000 people a day. She showed an actual ticket from a Russian ship in 1910, a manifest from 1906, a declaration of intention and foreign money. "Most social studies classes just do the ham and cheese, but I like to make the classroom come alive," Anderson said. "I like to do hands-on things." Next year Anderson hopes to make the activity even bigger by combining the classes for an even larger, more realistic experience. Corinne Frayer can be reached at (480) 898-7917 or cfrayer@aztrib.com.

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