Third graders at Bayview Elementary went back in time to experience what it was like for
immigrants to come through Ellis Island on their way to America.
“Back then they were probably excited, and I bet they were scared too because they didn’t know
what was ahead for them,” Garret Janzen, third-grade teacher, explained.
Tickets and passports in hand, students lined up to board the ship. They rode the ship through the
hallways of Bayview, coming to the stairway, or, the entrance to Ellis Island.
“When you go up the stairs, if any of you get a card with a health condition on it, you will have
to go to the hospital before moving on,” Janzen said.
Some students dressed the part by wearing scarves, big hats, plaid shirts, and suspenders. The
topic of conversation while they stood in line was what they had in their suitcase.
“Each student was allowed to bring just a few items in their suitcase,” Beth Fawcett, third-grade
teacher, said. “They either made their item out of construction paper or brought a picture of it to
represent that actual item.”
Among the items some third graders chose to store in their paper suitcases: water, cheese
popcorn, French fries, bananas, ghost pepper, and a cricket.
Three classmates—sisters for this project—put their minds and resources together. They
explained, “I have 25 dollars, she has 15 dollars, and she has 10 dollars. I have some soup and
pajamas. She has an extra set of clothes. We’re all sharing.”
Once students got off the ship and made it through the health inspector, then it was time for the
interview in the Great Hall.
Inspectors asked them what kind of skills they have, how much money they had on them and
whether they had a place to stay once in America.
As they stood in line, they started talking as if they were immigrants, waiting to be let into
America. “I’m looking forward to all the different food,” said a student. Her classmate
responded, “I’m looking forward to having another life.”
Once they made it through the interview in the Great Hall, then it was time to get their photo
taken and, finally, get reunited with family and friends. Neil Diamond’s “America” was blaring
in the reunion room, but there was so much chatter it was rather hard to hear him belt it out.
“We want them to experience a bit of what it was like to go on that journey and come to Ellis
Island,” Megan Donkena, third-grade teacher, explained. “They will take a test tomorrow but
now that they’ve actually been through it, we told them it should be rather easy as all that they
have to do is talk about what they experienced along the way.”