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posted: Fri, Jun 10th, 2016

 


Michael Soriano finds his family name on Ellis Island's Wall of Names

The gateway to America

It was an opportunity to step back in time and, for many, walk in the footsteps of their ancestors. Mountain View third-graders recently toured Ellis Island and stopped off at Liberty Island for a close-up view of the Lady of the Harbor. 

The visit to the iconic landmarks so important to the story of America allowed students to see the locations that they had read about earlier in the year in social studies. Inside the main building at Ellis Island, the students walked through the Great Hall and saw the "Stairs of Separation" where every Ellis Island immigrant between 1900 and 1924 once stood. Here at the threshold of the American Dream, there were three distinct aisles on the staircase for the three possible paths an immigrant would travel after a quick legal and medical inspection: to a ferry to Manhattan, to the train station, or to a detention area. 

For many students, finding the names of relatives on the island’s Wall of Honor was the highlight of the day.

The third-graders had studied American immigration and Ellis Island earlier in the school year. The teachers made the unit an exploration into the students’ own unique heritages. Students filled out questionnaires with the help of their parents and other family members that included details such as their ancestors’ countries of origin, years of arrival, and the reasons why their relatives left their native countries. 

“The whole experience gave students a sense of their own family heritages and history,” said teacher Mary Fisher. “I don’t think it’s a topic kids talk about at home. This really opened the door for them to have these discussions with their parents and understand who they are and where they come from.” 

The immigration unit ended with a multicultural day that celebrated the different heritages of the students and featured a feast of the typical foods from their ancestors’ countries of origin. 

About 60 students and 30 parents took part in the Ellis Island trip.

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Mountain View School
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