Juniors at Edison High School in Huntington Beach took on the challenge to experience what it meant to be an immigrant in the year 1908 when fleeing to the United States and landing at Ellis Island during a project in their US History classes.
Between 1892 and 1954, approximately 12 million immigrants traveled to Ellis Island hoping for a better life, often seeking refuge from war, persecution, and famine. Upon arrival, individuals and families underwent various health and legal inspections, which typically took a few hours but could last up to a few weeks, to determine if they were fit for entry into the United States.
Today, around 40 percent of all Americans can trace their ancestry to immigrants at Ellis Island, making this a personal experience for many students.
During the Ellis Island Experience, Edison juniors step back in time to 1908 where they obtain a new identity as an immigrant in a multi-class simulation challenge. With this newfound identity, the students encounter the inspections through customs at Ellis Island with the hope of entering the U.S,. leaving behind their home countries, and creating a new life.
Some students enter as single individuals, while others face the realities of being split apart from their families through the various stations at customs. They must go through a background check, character checkpoint, work experience, health inspection, and finally, if they pass, they take an oath to enter the United States. Those who do not pass the inspections get the chance to plead their case to enter the country, and if they fail, they will be deported back to their countries.
“The Edison social studies department has conducted the Ellis Island Experience for over 20 years,” explained EHS History and CIBACS Instructor, Brian Boone. “This allows our students to get a first hand experience about the immigration process in place during the early 20th
Century. By the time their research and performance is accomplished, our students gain a much deeper understanding of our ancestors’ difficulties in their attempts at achieving a better life in the United States of America. In addition, this also prompts some of our students to deeply diveinto their own family history and trace the roots of their families.”
Edison is part of the Huntington Beach Union High School District.