Immigration is a hot topic. For middle school students tuning into recent news, there are lots of questions: Why is there so much debate about immigration? How did we get to our current legal position on immigration? What are the different perspectives and who has them?
This winter, our 7th and 8th graders explored these questions and more in their trimester-long study of immigration in America. As part of this study, students went on two walking tours of historical immigrant neighborhoods in Portland- Japantown, and South Portland. Irma Valdez, a local immigration lawyer, came in to the class to talk about her work and about current policy. Other guest speakers included Detective Keith Bickford, head of the Human Trafickking Task Force in Portland, and Abdiasis Mohamed from Portland’s Immigration and Refugee Community Organization. In addition to learning about the history of national policy, students participated in a storyline in which they assumed the identities of different stakeholders within the debate. This allowed them to think more personally about all sides of the issue.
As a culminating event, students hosted a naturalization ceremony at school on Thursday, March 12th. The 7th and 8th graders welcomed 10 new citizens to the U.S. by decorating the great room, providing food and drink for a reception, and singing the national anthem. After the ceremony, students also had the opportunity to interview the new residents and learn more about their story. Two newspapers covered the event, so we expect to see stories in the media soon! Several parents were also able to attend commented on how powerful the experience was for them and their kids.
Congratulations 7th and 8th graders and thank you Sarah W. for covering such an important and timely topic!