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U.S. immigration has always presented a paradox. America is a nation of immigrants, but from the nation’s early beginnings those who came before have had concerns with those who came after. The degree of these concerns often rises and falls with the political seasons and the state of the economy. We’re experiencing such concerns today and students are interested.

Two Interact units that provide students with solid historical background and opportunities to use new technology to study immigration are GATEWAY and IMMIGRANT JOURNEYS. In “Gateway,” (written by Jay Mack, Paul Dekock, and David Yount) students research eight generalizations dealing with American immigration history and then simulate the induction process at Ellis Island in 1900. Students will understand the reasons people migrated to America during different periods and in the simulation, experience the traumas of uprooting their families, going to a new land, and hopefully get accepted. Students will also explore the reasons for conflict between first and next generation immigrants as well as nativist and organized labor’s opposition to unrestricted immigration.

Of special interest to current events are activities involving an immigration survey and a Congressional hearing to examine proposed immigration legislation. These proposals have a familiar ring to today ranging from open immigration to a moratorium. In between are bills requiring all immigrants pass literacy tests in English, have a vocational skill, be of certain ethnic origin, and take loyalty oaths.

IMMIGRANT JOURNEYS is also an Interact lesson that is very applicable to today’s study of immigration. In this lesson, students use Google Earth to trace immigration from Asia, Europe, and Mexico to the United States between 1830 and 1930. During the lesson students will understand factors that led to the influx of immigration to the U.S., learn about the various conditions immigrants faced on arrival, and understand the factors that led to nativist prejudice against immigrants. The lesson encourages cooperative learning and has students create their own map to answer document-based-questions by evaluating historical evidence. This lesson would work well as a set up for GATEWAY.


I encourage any of you who have experience with either of these lessons to contribute to this blog with your ideas or suggestions. Or if you are planning on exploring the topic of immigration with your students this year, consider using this blog as a way to gather and discuss ideas. We look forward to hearing from you.

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