Immigration and family heritage are the first curriculum topics in Grade 4 history classes this academic year. To close out the unit, students staged a live outdoor presentation filled with songs, art work, and costumes for teachers and parents.
Donned in clothing representing their individual family cultures, students marched together into the school courtyard where they began the presentation with a song. The song, titled “I Feel,” lyrically detailed the emotions and internal feelings of those arriving and settling in a new country. Small groups took turns at the microphone sharing emotions, which ranged from sadness, to sorrow, to regret, and to hopefulness and happiness.
Following the performance, students made their way to display tables filled with their individual art work. Each hand-colored piece started as an individually drawn silhouette that was beautifully decorated with flags, symbols, images, and designs paying homage to the family heritage of every student. Parents were able to walk around the table observing the class artwork.
“This project is about celebrating the rich diversity of our students,” said Grade 4 teacher Emily Schimelman 2002. “I wanted to end this unit in a fun, collaborative, but educational way. The best learning tool is for students to fully emerge themselves into the topic and absorb the information in a hands-on way. Working with fellow teachers Sara Dixon, Lisa Daly, Sue Bennet, and Stacy Schwartz to create a cross-curricular unit has transformed the content and makes students captivated by the subject matter.”
To prepare for the culminating performance, students read the novel Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse in Sara Dixon’s reading class. The novel tells the story of a Jewish family’s immigration journey from Russia to the United States. Delving into the story gave students the opportunity to learn about immigration from a first person point-of-view.
Theatre teacher Lisa Daly worked with the students to create the final song performance. Prompted with the question “What is your idea of what immigration feels like?” students brainstormed and worked together to create a list of emotions. Each group hand-wrote poems describing the range of emotions likening them to physical reactions and situations.
Lower School art teacher Susan Bennett 1973 had students craft the art pieces during her class time with them. Her prompt to students was to visualize all the symbols that represent their heritage and then draw them around the board.
“This unit exposed the students to different kinds of immigration experiences, and it is so important for them to realize that while immigrants can have certain experiences in common, the different experiences allow for beautiful conversations,” noted Mrs. Schimelman.