Parent Brings Ellis Island to Life for CGCS Students

February 01, 2017 | Carrie Miller

Psalm 146:9 says, "The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow but he frustrates the ways of the wicked." Inspired by that text and the ongoing political campaigns that have dominated our country this year, parent Kate Moreland set out to bring a bit of history to the students of Cottage Grove (Ore.) Christian School in a very special way.

With the help of Cottage Grove Church members, parents and volunteers, the students were transported back to November 1916 and discovered what it may have been like to come to our country through New York's Ellis Island to escape political persecution and economic hardship.

Two weeks before their journey from Liverpool to New York began, the students studied about people who emigrated from Europe during that time period. Each student chose a European country, an American city, a new occupation and clothes they would wear on their journey. They colored their own currency and prepared their passports.

Students arrived excited for their new journey. They paraded down a painted walkway and arrived at the Port of Liverpool's Pier 37. Many rooms of the church had been incredibly transformed by Moreland and her team. The students were divided into first class and steerage accommodations and given food appropriate to their class. As they ate, the students watched a documentary on the Statue of Liberty.

Other experiences of the students’ journey included a medical exam, checkpoints to go through to become U.S. citizens, meeting with immigration officials and more.

"For authenticity, the adults on our team were coached on the specifics of the process," notes Moreland. "We prepared the students in advance on the importance of passing all the tests and the terrible consequences for those who didn't and had to be deported back to the country they came from. So they were all a bit nervous about that as they made their way up the stairs."

Thanks to the help of church member Walter Koehn and school parent Ness Buffington, the students were able to hear the immigration official speak German and the currency exchange official speak Filipino. "We did this to simulate how difficult it was for the immigrants to accomplish what was required when they had no idea what they were being asked to do," explains Moreland.

After saying the Pledge of Allegiance the students were given a naturalization certificate with a golden seal. When the students completed all of their tasks they sang a song their teacher, Dianna Mohr, had rehearsed with them about the Statue of Liberty.

Pastor Kevin Miller was impressed and pleased with how the simulation went: "Kate Moreland is a parent of two students in our school, and she was the creative genius that designed the elaborate experience our students had today. Her enthusiasm and detailed research made it a teachable moment for each of us."