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Seventh Graders Reenact Ellis Island Immigration Process

Seventh graders donned costumes on Monday, October 29, but the occasion was quite serious; they were in character as immigrants going through the harrowing process of being admitted to the United States through Ellis Island.

Their teachers played the parts of immigration officials and inspectors who sternly interviewed them at various checkpoints.

The annual Ellis Island Reenactment Day, which is part of the grade’s study on life in the United States and the challenges faced by immigrants to the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, is meant to help students better understand the immigrant experience at that time. The students, who were in small groups of “families” traveling together, were led through four checkpoints: baggage, medical, interview and information. At each station, the immigration officials and inspectors questioned the families about the contents of their luggage, their background, their health and their future plans for work in the United States.

To prepare for the Reenactment Day, students explored the root causes of why immigrants at the time traveled to the United States and read numerous stories and primary source accounts. Students were also assigned various countries of origin and researched their country so as to be prepared to answer checkpoint questions accurately and thoroughly.

The seventh grade humanities curriculum on immigration culminates in a trip to the Tenement Museum on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.