Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation

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PORTS Funding Update!

falseThanks to your support and a $10,000 grant from the Yahoo! Employee Foundation we've reached another milestone in funding our PORTS youth education program.  With its distance-learning focus, we will be able to dramatically increase the number of students who will learn about the history and legacy of the Immigration Station.  The State Parks PORTS program served a whopping 45,000 students last year, and it’s estimated that we’ll reach 6,000 high schoolers in our first year.

One of AIISF’s key goals is to increase the awareness of the Immigration Station.  Reaching high school students through this program is one of the most effective ways to achieve that.  With this grant and your contributions, we are making this goal a reality. The generous grant from the Yahoo! Employee Foundation will provide the funds to continue beta-testing the program and promote it to teachers throughout California.  Heather Holm, State Parks Program Director and Christina Lunde, our curriculum development specialist, have put together an impressive outreach program attending teacher conferences statewide to present the Immigration Education module.

This is the second grant for PORTS that we’ve received from the Yahoo! Employee Foundation and we send our deepest gratitude to them. We also wish to thank the California State Parks Foundation and Angel Island State Park for first round funding to create this important program.

About PORTS and the Angel Island Immigration Station Module

falseWith our State Park partners we have created an Immigration Education Module for California State Parks’ PORTS (Parks Online Resources for Teachers and Students), a live, interactive distance learning, videoconferencing program that enables students sitting miles away to engage with the history of the Immigration Station. Targeted at 11th graders, but designed so teachers can easily adjust for younger grades, we have the potential of reaching more than 6,000 students in our first year.

Winner of the 2014 Award for Excellence in Museum Education from the CA State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the CA Association of Museums, PORTS uses the power of interactive technology to help teach common core state standards in the context of California State Parks.  In addition, to the video-conference, the program comes with a fully developed unit of study on the Immigration Station’s history and encourages discussion on contemporary immigration.

PORTS bridges both distance and economic gaps allowing every child to hear the remarkable West Coast immigration stories collected by the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation.  While all of California’s public school students are the objective of this program, PORTS aims directly at those children that traditionally have been under-served by the state parks; the urban, economically disadvantaged, and ethnically diverse students that have experienced geographic and social barriers to participate in state park programs.

This is a crucial step in sharing with young people the neglected story of Pacific Coast Immigration and to help those students connect the historical dots to today’s immigration issues. This learning module is based on our existing Immigrant Journeys curriculum.  Available online, this curriculum guide was developed in 2004 and was designed to help familiarize teachers and their students with the story of the US Immigration Station and to put it in context with Pacific Rim immigration to the US. It includes lessons on immigration history, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the poetry detainees carved into the station walls, and takes a look at issues relating to public policy and immigration.

With PORTS, we’ve contemporized that content to meet the new Common Core standards and take full advantage of today’s technology. Using an interactive timeline, students explore the Angel Island story within the context of what was happening in California and the United States when the station was operating.  They study the major turning points in American history through the lens of immigration with an emphasis on the people who came through the Immigration Station on Angel Island.  The students explore this perspective by analyzing visual artifacts, video, and poetry of the immigrants who were detained on the island. In the end the students will begin asking questions of how their families came to the USA and what is their immigrant story?

In essence, we grapple with these essential questions:

1. Who is an immigrant?

2. What did immigration look like in the USA from 1850 to 1965?

3. Why do we call the United States a nation of immigrants?

4. What is the student’s family’s immigrant story?

We believe this module is significant as it not only emphasizes English and language arts, so critical in the new standards, but also allows teachers and students to explore immigration, perseverance and tolerance—important and often overlooked components of the new common core standards.

A great deal of attention was paid to make this module flexible depending on the skill level of the student.  For the second language learner, we’ve included compelling content that will resonate with their experience.  In addition, we have provided content for the hard discussions the gifted learner is seeking.

Scalability is key for us and we want to expand the reach of this program beyond California’s borders.  With sufficient funding we will be able to include schools throughout the country, but we will always be met with the very real limitations of hours in the day.  One of the most expedient strategies is to tape the interpreter during her presentation and make that experience available online with the complete module.  The classroom teacher will pause the tour at key points and lead the interactive questions in lieu of the interpreter.  With a smart teachers’ guide online to assist the educator, this will be an equally dynamic learning experience available to an unlimited number of students.

With videoconferencing more readily available in schools, two or more high schools can link up and after having studied the content in the module, engage in the tour video together.  This would allow an exchange of ideas and experiences during the interactive components of the video inspiring dialogue amongst schools of varying economic and ethnic populations.

To add depth to the program, guest speakers can be invited in to lead the interactive discussion.  Additionally, two teachers from the same school can turn the poetry piece into a school wide poetry slam utilizing our module’s poetry wall project with immigration as the theme.

On our website we can replicate a social media site (many schools ban access to these on their computers) encouraging students nationwide to post their thoughts, experiences and creative outpourings as related to the module.

We are convinced that the crucial information shared in this module will be embraced by educators nationwide and we are focused on making that happen.

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