Fourth-graders examine differences in immigrant experiences
By Laura Adams Stiansen; originally published in the Winter 2022 edition of “Apple Tree Magazine”
Standing in front of a classroom of fourth-graders, Executive Assistant to the Head of School Seth Odei-Danso (who our students call Mr. Seth) answers questions from them as they learn the story of how and why he immigrated to the United States.
“Why did you come to America?” one student asks.
“Growing up I lived right next to a school like this, and it was an American school. I used to see the kids all the time, playful. They had infrastructure that was not common to the rest of the country. And, finding out more, I got to see that everything came from the United States. So, my dream as a child always has been to see what this place is like. Because if all these good things are coming from there, it might be a good place to be. That’s one of the things that prompted me at a very young age,” replies Odei-Danso, who immigrated from Ghana to the United States five years ago.
Another student raises their hand and asks, “How did you feel about moving from your country?”
“That’s a good question because it was very tough for me to decide to finally come and settle here. I was working in a similar school, and I really loved it,” says Odei-Danso, who shows the students a memory book that his former school created for him. “I stayed at that school for a very long time, almost 20 years. These are all memories [flipping through the book]. So, that was one of the hardest things for me, leaving behind so many years of built relationships.”
Windows and Mirrors
This year’s theme in Natasha Pronga and Puja Kothari’s fourth-grade classes is “Windows and Mirrors.”
“Our theme helps to guide us in all of our conversations,” says Pronga.
“A window allows us to look through it, hear, and learn someone else’s story, while a mirror offers a reflection to connect stories within our own lives.”
During the Immigration unit, students focused on comparing and contrasting the stories of immigrants from the past to those of recent years, as well as analyzing the difference between immigrant experiences at Ellis Island in New York Harbor and Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay. Students also learned about the different types of immigrants, from economic migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, and the many reasons why people immigrate to a new country.
“This helps our students to gain an understanding of what it means to live in a nation of immigrants and how such a diverse group of people helps make our country what it is today,” says Pronga, adding that the discussion with Odei-Danso helped students develop their interview skills. “It’s important to develop interview skills and actively listen and ask follow-up questions.”
For the final class project, students interviewed a family member or someone close to them and presented a podcast, slideshow, or picture book to share these stories with their classmates.
“They gained confidence in public speaking and learned the importance of sharing and learning about other people’s stories,” says Pronga.
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