Pentucket Lake Fourth Graders Celebrate ‘Ellis Island Day’ With Immersive Lessons

"Lady Liberty" (aka Principal Dianne Connolly) surrounded fourth grade students during "Ellis Island Day" on Dec. 18. (Courtesy photograph)

“Lady Liberty” (aka Principal Dianne Connolly) surrounded fourth grade students during “Ellis Island Day” on Dec. 18. (Courtesy photograph)

Haverhill’s Pentucket Lake Elementary School became a hub for new immigrants Tuesday with the school’s seventh annual “Ellis Island Day” immersive learning experience for fourth graders.

WHAV joined in as students were greeted by the Statue of Liberty—aka Principal Dianne Connolly—and steered from a cafeteria assembly into classrooms by ship captain Assistant Principal James Brennan to learn what life was like for immigrants in 1900.

The brainchild of fourth grade teacher Katie Gregoire, the program allowed students to put their social studies, language and reading skills to the test as they participated in a medical exam, took a citizenship test and cast a vote, among other activities.

Gregoire told WHAV each student adopted an immigrant name and persona—including country of origin—as they completed various lessons built around state standardized skills and concepts. They also brought props from home.

“Everyone has a Trader Joe’s paper bag—“luggage”—with five things with them that are important, because we talked about how they couldn’t bring everything when they came to Ellis Island,” Gregoire said. “It’s one of those experiences they really like. It’s all day and every 30 minutes we rotate a station.”

The educator—who first began the project as a Pentucket Lake student teacher seven years ago—was thrilled to see a variety of students benefit from the experience.

“My ELL students know the complexity of having to know another language and figure it out. The hands’ on learners love the medical and legal inspection because they can take on those roles and interact. Every classroom is really unique,” she told WHAV.

Next up, Gregoire said she’d like to see fourth graders focus on literacy, with an immersive author study being discussed for the spring.