Wednesday, September 10, 2008

United States History: Ellis Island and the Immigrant Experience

In my U.S. History class we're embarking on our new unit tomorrow, Immigration and Industrialization. I'm going to start by showing the first 25 minutes of the 2003 film In America. It's about an Irish family that comes to modern America to find a better life. While it clearly depicts the hardship that immigrants face, it also highlights some of the beautiful moments of family life and the opportunities that the U.S. affords.

One of the most memorable and gut-wrenching scenes though is when the family goes to a local carnival for a fun night out. The only money they have is their rent money, yet the father is determined to win a stuffed animal for his young daughters at one of the carnival games. If you're not on the edge of your seat during that scene, you simply are not human.
To me, it's one of the more powerful and poignant scenes in recent movie history.

One of the resources I'm using for the early portion of this unit is an Ellis Island website that is terrific. It's rich with visuals ranging from graphs to both recent and historical photos. Great enrichment for the material we'll be studying.

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