The annual, themed day teaches students about their ancestors' journey to the United States of America.
Third-graders bustled around a hallway at Imagine School at Town Center, many with their belongings bundled in pillow cases that were draped over their shoulders or cradled in their arms. Some boys sported newsboy caps and the girls donned bonnets or shawls.
On Friday, Feb. 8, the students were transported to Ellis Island. The year was the 1910, and everyone was dressed reminiscent of the time when millions of immigrants flocked through Upper New York Bay over a period of 60 years.
The is the eighth year ISTC held the themed day, third-grade team lead Heather Overton said. The idea originally came from a scholastic website, but the school has adapted it over the years with different elements like banners and signs.
“The purpose is to really help kids understand what it was like to go through Ellis Island,” Overton said. “They go to five different rooms and they’re interviewed, they have to take a citizenship test, they have their bags checked to see what they brought with them. They have to also explain their reason for coming, where they came from, what job they have, who they plan on living with, how they’re going to provide for themselves.”
Overton said that some students chose to use their real name, while others made up their age and personal information. At the beginning of the day, about 100 students in five classes lined up on the outdoor sports court to check their passport checked and purchase transportation tickets, after sailing over on a “boat,” before they move inside to learn about documentation, citizenship tests and more. The four-hour day concluded with a “Welcome to America” party with snacks and drinks.
About 30 parents volunteered to run the show, Overton said, as they were assigned different roles in each classroom to interact with students.
“I told them you can question (the students) and make them somewhat uncomfortable because they would have been uncomfortable, they would have been scared and nervous,” she said.
Flagler County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Deputy Ralph Lilavois added another scare tactic to the festivities. Volunteers collected the students’ baggage if it was left unattended and turned it in to Lilavois, who acted as a immigration detainer. He questioned the students before returning their belongings to them — if they didn’t get detained themselves.
“They love it; it’s the highlight of their year,” Overton said. “I’ve already had 15 former students come and see me this morning and say, ‘Oh, it’s Ellis Island Day, I love Ellis Island Day,’ so it really is a memorable experience for them.”