By LINDSAY CAREY
Eighth graders at DePaolo Middle School had the opportunity to participate in a week-long immigration unit that was funded by the American Immigration Council’s Community Education Grant.
DePaolo Middle School teachers Debra Moreau and Kerri Fenton were awarded the grant and began to design an immigration outreach unit through the students.
“We wanted to heighten the awareness of social issues in our country as well as others,” said Fenton. “Not only are they learning, but they’re giving back too.”
The three main objectives Moreau and Fenton intended for the unit was to educate students on the immigrant experience, to welcome students, and to empower all students to implement social justice.
“We wanted to have the kids learn more about immigration to make them aware,” said Moreau. “It was active service learning.”
With Social Studies teacher Moreau and the Language Art teacher Fenton collaborating to create this unit, the aspects of the unit were interdisciplinary at the core.
The unit was launched with a trip to Ellis Island, which provided students with some background information on the immigrant journey to America as well as the struggles that came with adapting to life here.
Another aspect of the unit, which worked on awareness, was an investigation assignment. The students looked at resources including local newspaper articles regarding immigration news and searched the school for the information that is provided for English Language Learners who attend the school. They also conducted interviews of faculty to find out how they help ELL and even interview all five of the ELL students who attend DePaolo.
“When they did the investigation assignment, I think they really became aware of all the things that are not available for the English Language Learners at our school,” said Moreau.
The eighth graders also became more aware when Moreau and Fenton invited immigrants in the community to come in and speak to them about their personal experiences coming to American and going to school. Some of the speakers included Board of Education member Terry Lombardi, parents, and three former DePaolo ELL students who now attend Southington High School.
“It built empathy for other people’s experiences,” said Fenton. “You are not aware of what you don’t know, so it was a good opportunity to learn about experiences that are different than our own.”
After learning from investigating and hearing immigrant stories, the students chose five or six important topics that they felt would provide sound information for ELL students joining the DePaolo student body.
On day four, the students used Google docs to work together to create welcome brochures for future English Language learners to come to DePaolo.
The brochure is being translated into the some most dominant languages in the town. The class will have the brochures translated into Arabic, Polish, Spanish, and Albanian by a staff member, a parent, and a student from CCSU.
The funding for this program will allow the class to have the brochures printed out and they will be available as a part of the registration information provided by DePaolo for immigrant students.
The eighth graders also read the book “The Arrival,” which is mainly a compilation of images about the immigrant experience.
The American Immigration Council has a blog geared toward educators and has offered the students the opportunity to write a book review about “The Arrival.” Four students are currently working on the review, which will be published on the blog.
“It’s a good opportunity for students to not only see the writing process, but to also see the publishing process and as an English teacher that’s just great,” said Fenton.
In addition to the book review, other students are working on creating cultural posters and hanging other country’s flags around the school.
The students also have decided they would like to create a social club to help ELL students to learn English and make friends.
“They came up with the club on their own, this unit really was example of active service learning” said Moreau. “They’re really going to help those students better acclimate to the school.”