We Are the World! How One Inner City Classroom Is Learning about Immigration, Culture and Being Canadian

By Davis-Spinks, Haydée | Our Schools, Our Selves, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

We Are the World! How One Inner City Classroom Is Learning about Immigration, Culture and Being Canadian


Davis-Spinks, Haydée, Our Schools, Our Selves


Introduction

Haydée Davis-Spinks

Grade 6 Teacher, Dovercourt Jr. P.S., TDSB

When I started the year teaching my class of 30 grade 5/6 students at Dovercourt Jr. P.S. in downtown Toronto in the fall of 2007,1 was once again amazed at the diversity in my classroom. On the first day of school, I took pictures of each child, and they each set about making a one-page poster depicting the flag of a country that reflects their family's heritage. These posters became even more personalized as students added small captions about the significance of the flag colours, and the reasons why they may have more than one flag on their poster. Many proudly included the Canadian flag, for example, on their poster. I posted a World Map outside my room on a large bulletin board, and as students finished their posters each was added to the display. Using tacks, we attached string from each poster to the particular country on the map it depicted. The final result was a colourful display of the global village represented in our classroom, and the intertwining of the strings helped represent our connections. Finally, the students painted at the top:

We are the world!

30 students. ...16 countries. ...5 continents. ...1 class!

I was particularly interested in students opening up a dialogue with their parents about their family's origins and what their culture means to them. Many had not really considered this part of their identity to any great extent. Happily, through this project, students learned about their own history and culture in a very personal way, and were able to share their stories with their classmates.

The projects each student would ultimately complete were an extension of the activity we used to introduce ourselves to each other, to the school as a whole, and to the wider community. The project was linked with the Social Studies topic for Grade 6: Canada's Links to the World.

Project Outline

Research and prepare a written report about a country with links to Canada, and the experience of people from that country living in Canada.

Part One: Personal Connections

Explain why you have chosen your particular country (family connection, heritage, etc.) and tell the story of the people in your family who emigrated to Canada (parents/grandparent/greatgrandparents) in as much detail as possible, based on your interview with a family member. Try to explain what this country means to you and how you see yourself.

Part Two: A Country Profile

Present your research about the country, including as many of the following as you can: location (include map), size, population, climate, culture, economic activity, political system, other interesting facts about the country that you may discover. Only include information that makes sense to you, and that you will be able to explain to the class.

Part Three: The Canadian Experience

Present information about the experience of people living in Canada who have come from, or whose families came from, the country you are researching. Include: statistics about immigration patterns, the percentage of Canada's population who descended from that country, what traditions continue to be celebrated, successes (e.g. economic) and/or challenges (e.g. racism) faced by that community here in Canada.

The following writing samples are from Part One of this project.

What it was Like Emigrating From Italy to Canada

By Elijah Madonia

My grandparents emigrated from Italy to Canada in about 1956. It was hard for them because, first of all, they didn't understand the language so they couldn't understand the people.

The job that my Nonna did was in a factory doing piece work. Piece work was sewing parts of clothing until the whole thing was made. For example, what she would do was sew a long seam down the side of a pair of pants. She got about two cents per seam. After an hour she would get a total of about 40 cents. …

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