Teaching Tolerance on Contemporary Immigration

Posted in Engagement Projects

Teaching Tolerance

How is immigration taught in American classrooms today? Many of us are familiar with lesson plans of Ellis Island but while Ellis Island is an integral part to American history, it does not reflect the experience or demographic of immigrants coming to the United States in 2013. Additionally, with so much in the news about illegal immigrants and the debates in Congress, how do teachers approach this subject?

Recently, the organization Teaching Tolerance launched a new series that seeks to address these questions, creating lesson plans that focus on contemporary immigration in the United States. Teaching Tolerance is an organization “dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation’s children.” They produce free educational materials for teacher and educators around the U.S. and Canada.

The four-part series is called “Changing Demographics, Changing Identity, Changing Attitudes” and is designed for high school students. It includes current articles, videos and handouts to be used in classroom discussion and activities. Each part focuses on a different aspect of immigration, from the changes in demographics to human rights considerations. The lesson plans ask students to identify and investigate perceptions they may already have about groups of immigrants and ask them what actions might be taken to promote equality and respect.

In her announcement of the series, Maureen Costello, the director of Teaching Tolerance, writes that the aim of the series is to “help students understand that our national identity is always evolving, and that immigration has almost always been a driving force. We see the lessons as an opportunity to create a climate of respect for all U.S. residents, beginning in the classroom.”

“Changing Demographics, Changing Identity, Changing Attitudes” is an excellent resource that we hope teachers will incorporate into their classrooms to address this very important topic. Our hats are off to Teaching Tolerance and Maureen Costello for creating and providing these great materials! We also encourage you to read a wonderful feature article Costello wrote in the organization’s magazine on two middle school teachers teaching immigration in their classrooms.