From 1995 to 2014, the fastest growing population of American children were first- and second- generation immigrants, increasing by 51 percent. In total, one in four children are first- and second- generation immigrants!
Many teachers struggle with how to bring up immigration with their students in a compassionate, productive way. Even the word immigration has strong emotional connotations for some students and can cause classroom conflict. So, what is the solution? Today’s PenPal Star from the USA provides an example of the kind of critical conversations your students can have about immigration through global project-based learning!
Creating a strong social-emotional learning culture in your classroom will help your students have rigorous academic discussions about immigration. Through global PBL, your students can put their SEL skills like empathy and respect into practice! Immigration in the 21st Century is a great PBL unit that challenges students to analyze current events and trends related to immigration. In addition, students have the opportunity to work with their peers around the world to create original projects such as sharing an immigrant story, analyzing family trees, and educating the community about immigration.
Today’s PenPal Star is Cassandra from Illinois, USA. Cassandra contributed to a global conversation about immigration by sharing her dad’s story of immigrating to the USA from Scotland. Check out his journey in this project-based learning example:
The Wonders of Immigrating and Emigrating
Immigrants emigrate for various reasons. They could be emigrating to escape persecution, to find economic migration, or maybe because they escaped violence and are undocumented in their new country. Having immigrants can impact our community. Immigrants can impact our community because they are valuable labor because they would take the jobs that most citizens do not want. The immigrants also bring their food, music and their popular culture to America for everyone to try, enjoy, or celebrate.
I interviewed Adrian Knowles, my dad. Adrian Knowles traveled from Edinburgh, Scotland which is in the United Kingdom. I wanted to interview my dad because listening to his story is very interesting and unique to hear about. He left his country because he met my mom when she was on a teacher exchange in Scotland. After they dated for awhile, they eventually got married and lived in Scotland for about one year. Once the year passed my dad traveled to get his green card in London. After that, my dad and mom flew to JFK airport in New York because that is where my mom is from and that is where they moved to. He said he would change the process of getting his green card because he had to go somewhere else. He lived in Long Island, New York for a while and he noticed some differences. Some of the differences he mentioned was that you drive on the different side of the road, Scotland is more historic and America is newer, with the buildings and the way things are run. He also noticed there was a lot of culture from where he is from, and in Scotland they do not have drive throughs for fast food places for example McDonald’s. It took him a bit to adjust to everything because it was brand new to him. Adrian Knowles mentioned he misses his family and the fish and chips shops. He does not miss the weather at all as it rained most of the time. In Adrian’s home country you had three parties, one becomes prime Minister. Labor party, conservative party or a Liberal Party.The people would vote for a party and not a person. He said he never felt excluded or embarrassed of moving here because his accent lets him stand out and it is also a conversation starter. He also says America lives up to his expectations and he is very happy that he moved here. My dad traveled here with my mom, but he misses his family a lot as he left them behind. He left his mom, dad, aunts, uncles, cousins, and his brothers and sisters. He is the oldest of 8 siblings, there are 4 boys and 4 girls in total. My dad has been interviewed many times about his journey and is always happy to talk about his experience.
I have interviewed my dad a few times about his experience and I always learn something new. When I interview him, I find it interesting about how unique my culture is. Learning something new about my culture will help me see the differences between the United Kingdom and America when I visit. One thing I find interesting when I visit is all of the history and how everything looks really old but it is so cool. To all of my global readers, have any of you been to the United Kingdom? If so, Where and what was your favorite part about your trip, and what did you learn or find interesting?
As students learn about immigration through the stories from other students around the world in Immigration in the 21st century, they are exposed to multiple perspectives, develop SEL strategies, and gain a deeper understanding of the topic. Project based learning allows students to connect their lives and experiences with immigration and create a final project that is meaningful to them.
When we found PenPal Schools here in Waubonsie Valley's Social Studies department with the help of our brilliant library director, we jumped on the opportunity to seize a learning experience for our students that gave them real-world connections to students just like them from other places. As a World Geography teacher, one of my (and the school's) goals for the course is to help our kids to be more culturally relativist learners and people through exposure, the practice of empathy, and knowledge. Giving students a platform where they can share their experiences, stories, and world views but also be exposed to others dissimilar to theirs allows students' horizons to broaden. We are looking forward to new ways that our kids can get involved in working with people just like them from across the globe through this website!
When she’s not learning with PenPals, Cassandra loves acting with her schools’ Theater Arts program. In fact, she’s an assistant director for musicals! She also is part of her school bowling team. We reached out to her to learn more about her experience with PenPal Schools:
PenPal Schools: How did you feel when you found out you were going to be featured as a PenPal Star?
Cassandra: I was shocked, but I was pretty proud of myself and I thought it was pretty special.
What is the most interesting thing you learned from your PenPals?
Cassandra: I learned that many different people have gone through the same thing as my dad going through the immigration process. It made me think more about the people who had to immigrate just to get a better chance at life or they followed their heart and their love like my parents did.
What was the most important lesson you learned in this project?
Cassandra: That the immigration process can be challenging and difficult.
What advice do you have about being a great PenPal?
Cassandra: Just that you really enjoy writing it and put a lot of effort into and make it true, do not fake it and really try to understand the experiences.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
Cassandra: I would go back to Scotland because I love it there and I miss my Dad's family and just the experience is really unique and interesting.
Why do you think it's important to learn with other students from around the world?
Cassandra: I think it is important to learn from students around the world because of their different experiences and just to connect with them was important.
Congratulations, Cassandra! By sharing your dad’s story, you’ve helped provide a unique perspective about immigration that students from around the world will learn from. Thank you for contributing to our global learning community!
Want to teach SEL strategies through project based learning? These project based learning opportunities allow students to develop skills such as empathy, respect, self-awareness, collaboration, and more!
PBL Example: Student in Florida studies the impact of immigration
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Project Based Learning Example: Life of a Foreigner in the Ukraine