Friday, February 01, 2002

Fairfield students play immigrant roles

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        FAIRFIELD - When Hayley Light stepped from the hallway into her classroom at Fairfield Intermediate School on Thursday, a sticker with a number — 7 — was slapped onto her shoulder.

        She had taken on the role of a German immigrant entering America for the first time through Ellis Island.

        The fifth-grader went from station to station, much as immigrants did in the early 1900s. Dressed in a long black skirt, a crocheted head shawl and a striped shirt, Hayley held tight to her passport as she went through a baggage check, medical exam and inquiry board.

        Like the immigrants, she didn't understand a word. Honors students from Fairfield Senior High School staffed each of the stations, speaking only French to the fifth-graders while using a lot of exaggerated gestures.

        “I didn't know what they were saying. I never want to have that experience again. I was so scared and so frustrated I couldn't understand a thing,” Hayley said.

        Students have been studying about immigration for the past four weeks, and teacher Valerie Isaac said the Ellis Island simulation Thursday was a way to bring together several topics they had been studying. The students made their own “heritage albums,” with information about their family trees, background and pictures.

        For the seniors, it was a chance to practice their French and brush up on their translation skills. They were given a citizenship test in English that they had to translate into French.


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