World history, family history combine at RIS

Cynthia Breedlove, Story and photos
Ramstein Intermediate School

***image1***Fourth-grade students in Arrah Holdsworth’s class at Ramstein Intermediate School recently studied questions about where their ancestors originated, and how they came to live in America.

The students are engaged in a year-long study of immigration. As part of this study, the fourth-graders read the book, “Molly’s Pilgrim,” by Barbara Cohen. As a follow-up activity, each student made an ancestor doll.

“The idea was to ask our parents and grandparents some questions about our heritage,” said Ms. Holdsworth.

Because of these discussions, students discovered when their ancestors first emigrated to America, and they learned the reasons why they emigrated. Some were looking for new opportunities and some moved because of war or poverty.

The students created their ancestor dolls, based on this new information. They were proud to share their newly acquired family history.

“My great-great-grandfather was full-blooded Cherokee,” said student Patrick Connelly. “I learned that he was adopted and he did not know the Cherokee language.’’

“My great-great-grandmother was German,” said Anna Priddy. “She emigrated from Germany to Russia. She was allowed by Catherine the Great to become a farmer. Life was no better there so she got on a ship to America. She was a waitress on the ship. She went through Ellis Island. I know that I’m half-German. I think that’s pretty special.”

The project combined personal history with world history.
“They have new ideas about their own heritage and history,” said Ms. Holdsworth. “That has made this unit personal. When we talk about people in history who moved from one place to another, the students may know someone whose relatives did the same thing.”

By making the study of immigration so personal, Ms. Holdsworth hopes she has increased the chances that her students will remember the lesson for years to come.