Electronic Field Trips
Ellis Island Unit
- Grade level: Middle/Upper Elementary, High School
- Subject Area: Social Studies, Language Arts
Meet the Teachers
Margaret Holtschlag and Cindy Lafkas have been working together
integrating telecommunications into their classrooms for three years. Margaret
is teaching fourth grade at Murphy Elementary in Haslett, Michigan. She first
learned about technology from her husband, who is a United States Geological
Survey hydrologist. Her interest in technology stemmed from her desire to
explore new and different ways to approach teaching in her classroom. She and her
husband got an Excellence in Education grant from the Department of the Interior
to do a multi-media project on wetlands. Cindy is teaching fifth grade at
Cornell Elementary in Okemos, Michigan. She says she wouldn't have become
involved with computers if it hadn't been for word processing since she loves to
write. Cindy has been at Cornell for 11 years.
Cindy and Margaret have
participated in four telecommunications field trips through TCI and Turner
Adventure Learning in the past three years. This year, they went to Ellis
Island. Other years they have gone to the Rift Valley in Kenya and the battle
field at Gettysburg. (To learn more about Margaret and Cindy and their other
field trips, take a look at their Teacher Case in the Table of Contents on the left.)
In this unit, students will conduct primary and secondary
research to learn more about their cultural and ethnic heritage. These
explorations will serve as a personal link for students to the historical
importance of immigration in United States history. Such personal connections
serve both to make history more meaningful and accessible to students, as well as
providing a vehicle for developing students' historical thinking skills.
Students' research will include interviews with family members, researching their
heritage using Internet resources as well as library resources, and visiting
sites set up by other children that are related to the concepts of immigration
and ethnic and cultural heritage.
Some important considerations: Some students may
not be able or wish to explore their family's heritage. Adopted children and
children from troubled familes may prefer to engage in more generalized research
on immigration. An ideal subject for such students would be to research and
write about the history of immigration in the United States and at Ellis Island
in particular. Further, Native American children will have a different
perspective on immigration, since many of their ancestors were always here. A
research project on their families' heritage can provide these students with an
invaluable chance to express their cultural heritage which is so often denied.
Students may also be given the chance to research how Native Americans viewed the
waves of immigration that took place. African American children also will have a
different perspective on immigration, since many of their ancestors were
involuntary immigrants. These students can be given a similar chance to research
and document their cultural and ethnic heritage. They may also be given the
chance to research the realities of the forced immigration that Africans went
through, such as the capture and sale of slaves in Africa and the middle passage.
- Students will learn more about their own, as well as classmates', ethnic and cultural heritages.
- Students will learn about history by conducting primary research through
interviewing family members.
- Students will learn about history by conducting secondary research through
literature and WWW/Internet searches for information about their cultural and
- Students will have the opportunity to learn from their peers by visiting
sites set up by children that are related to the unit's concepts of immigration
and cultural heritage.
- Students will learn about the resources available on the WWW/Internet through research and guided browsing.
Materials and Resources
- Hardware requirements: You will need a modem and phone line.
- Software requirements: An Internet browser software, preferably Netscape. If you don't have Netscape, you can download it now. [http://home.netscape.com]
- Network/Internet requirements: At least one computer with an internet
hook-up. The main plans for the unit are tailored to work with classrooms with
more than one hook-up. For advice on how to adjust the plans if you have only one
computer with a hook-up, see below.
Unit Lesson Plans
- Lesson One: Introduction to Immigration. Read and discuss selected resources about children and immigration. Children develop an understanding of the concept of immigration and reasons why people immigrate.
- Lesson Two: Immigration Explorations, Part 1.
Form students into research groups to visit sites on immigration that were
created by other children. These sites will provide models for students to
complete their own research. While students visit the sites they should evaluate
the sorts of research students carried out to create their site, how they
structured the site, what sort of information and graphics they included, etc.
The list of criteria students develop from their research will guide them in
conducting their research and constructing their site.
- Lesson Three: Oral Histories. Using the criteria
they developed earlier, students begin to conduct oral histories of family
members to learn about their cultural and ethnic heritage. Prior to starting,
students and teachers together develop a list of questions that students will use
in their interviews and research.
- Lesson Four: Immigration Explorations, Part 2.
After they've completed their oral histories, students conduct secondary source
research using the internet and library resources to learn more about the
backgrounds of their family's cultural and ethnic heritages. Students can work
together in research groups that have common ethnic/cultural areas.
- Lesson Five: Creative Writing/Historical Journals. Having finished their primary and secondary research, students write a series of journal entries, from the perspective of one of their ancestors, on what life was like in that time period.
- Lesson Six: Final Reports. Students write up
reports, including a summary of their research findings and their historical
journal entries, to be shared with friends and families. Students should draw on
the criteria developed during their initial explorations to guide the format of
Relation to Standards
We have drawn on the historical thinking standards outlined by the National Center for History
in the Schools as well as evolving standards for K-12 language arts from the
National Council of English Teachers (NCET). We feel that these standards
provide excellent guidelines for teachers on how to focus social sciences work in
One Computer versus Many
The plans for this
unit are tailored to fit classroom situations where students and teachers have
access to several computers that have internet access. To accomodate the fact
that few classrooms will have access to a computer lab with full Internet access,
students will work in research groups to explore internet sites and conduct
If you have only one computer which is hooked-up
to the internet, you may choose to do one of several things.
During the intial stages of the unit:
- If you have the technology, you may hook-up the computer to a TV monitor or
LCD projector. This will allow the whole class to see sites in the preliminary
stages where students are exploring sites created by other children.
- If you don't have a TV monitor or LCD projector, you may choose to have
students rotate through the station in groups.
- If you don't have a TV monitor or LCD projector, but have several computers available you may also download files from the internet and save them to a disk. Then transfer Netscape
[http://home.netscape.com] onto your other computers. Now you can transfer the
files you down-loaded to the other non-internet computers to view with Netscape.
This will not allow students to explore the pages with hyper-links, but they will
be able to access and view the information by opening each file with Netscape.
During the research phase of the project:
- You may choose to have students rotate through the machine in research groups
that are composed of students from similar backgrounds, allowing them to gather
research as a group.
- You may choose to focus on one ethnic/cultural background for a given period of time-- say one day or week-- where you explore the links broadcasting with a TV or LCD projector. This way students get a sampling of the sort of information that is available.
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