Immigrant City In the Classroom

The Immigrant City Curriculum

Photo albumIncorporating Immigration into the Classroom grew out of the original Immigrant City: Then and Now exhibit. Immigrant City includes oral histories, photographs, and artifacts from several dozen Somerville immigrants from different generations. Photographs and interviews from Somerville High School students were a central part of the project, which was first exhibited at The Somerville Museum in 2007 and later and in 2008 at the Aidekman Center for the Arts at Tufts University.

We asked faculty and students from the Tufts University Anthropology Department to develop curriclum that would enable enable the rich local content and themes from the exhibit to be available to teachers, students, and residents when the exhibit came down from the walls of the museum space.

The Immigrant City: Then and Now curriculum brings lessons of civic engagement, history, geography, sociology, political science and various other social sciences to life at a local level. It complements the existing Somerville Public School Curriculum by strengthening students’ qualitative and quantitative skills while connecting broad curricular themes to their everyday lives. It uses local interviews and photographs from Somerville residents that are part of the Immigrant City: Then and Now exhibit.

The curriculum is broken down into five 30-45 minute lesson plans that can be adapted to meet the needs of individual students and teachers. Each module of the curriculum focuses on one theme relating to immigration in Somerville and Boston. The overarching themes of these plans are:

  • Homeland & The Journey,
  • School and Education,
  • Making a Living in The United States
  • Culture and Identity, and
  • Change, Dreams & Reflections.

Each lesson plan includes a starting activity, a time for teachers to present information on the daily theme, a main activity and a closing activity.

The activities are both informative and creative and encourage students to actively interact with the content. The lessons delve into important and relevant content as well as developing students’ affective and cognitive skills. This curriculum will help students practice reading comprehension, literacy development, map reading, active listening and participation, organization and various other skills that are imperative to meeting the standards set forth by the local and federal government.

The Immigrant City: Then and Now curriculum teaches these skills in an exciting and fun way through performing arts activities, film viewings and mixed media texts. The curriculum is targeted towards eighth graders because the topic effectively complements the existing eighth grade curricular objectives and because eighth grade is a key transitional point in students’ lives. Eighth graders are going through complicated adjustment periods, socially, physically and psychologically. Because of these transitions it can be difficult to keep students engaged and enthusiastic at school.

By connecting larger themes to the local level, this curriculum allows students to see how they fit into to the greater global environment. The images and stories provided in the lessons relate directly to their lives, giving them a sense of empowerment and an added degree of investment in the material. The lessons extend beyond the walls of the classroom into their everyday lives. Through this curriculum we are also working to build relationships between students and institutions of higher education, community projects, summer programs, internships and more. This curriculum serves as a gateway for students to a range of intriguing opportunities.