Students learn about historical and contemporary individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds by analyzing their evolving identities and contributions. Students celebrate contributions of these individuals by decorating commemorative boxes that depict the effects on the individual and the community.
Introduction to an immigration experience
Begin by reading aloud a contemporary story, biography, autobiography or news item about an immigration experience. Use picture books such as Angel Child, Dragon Child by Michele Maria Surat, The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi, The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco or The Lotus Seed by Sherry Garland (see References). Encourage students to think about the following experiences as they listen to the story:
- reasons for moving
- how the person's way of life changed; e.g., new job, increased access to medical services or education
- challenges or hardships experienced; e.g., new language, different foods, unfamiliar customs, loneliness
- contributions to the new community; e.g., special skills, cultural traditions, beliefs.
Using any of the picture books, compare the lives of both the main character and the community:
- How had the character's identity changed with the relocation to another place? For example, in The Name Jar, Yangsook wanted to change her given name to an Anglicized name to fit better into her new surroundings. Discuss how this change would have affected her.
- How had the community changed; e.g., increased diversity, exposure to new cultural traditions, foods, clothing styles, languages?
Discuss the findings as a class. Point out that Canada's society has been shaped by the people who lived in this country and, in turn, these people have been changed in the process.
Find a story of change
Ask students to find a story about someone who has moved from somewhere else and had an impact on the new community. These stories may be found in historical texts and newspapers or by interviewing a relative, Elder or senior from the community. Encourage students to select individuals from diverse backgrounds (see References).
Learn how to interview
Review how to plan and conduct an interview. You may want to conduct a model interview with an invited guest; e.g., member of the community, new student. Ensure that students understand how to develop appropriate questions to focus the interview.
See Asking Powerful Questions (Modelling the Tools) for detailed suggestions on how to teach and assess the tools for student-generated questions.
Conduct the research
Arrange for students to conduct the research by interviewing the selected individual.
You may want to adapt a chart in Recording Our Research (Support Material) to assist students in preparing for and conducting their interviews.
Share and analyze stories
Invite students to share their stories with the class. Create a class databank of experiences; e.g., wall chart, electronic database. As a class, analyze the emerging patterns; e.g., What experiences are similar? How do they differ?
Invite students to identify how the selected individuals impacted their communities and, in turn, how the community impacted the individuals.
Develop criteria for an effective commemorative box
Arrange for students to decorate a small commemorative box, such as a box for chocolates. Suggest that students use images—hand-drawn, cut out of magazines or computer-generated—and/or words/quotes to depict the evolving identities and contributions of their chosen individuals.
Develop criteria for a small box collage with the class, such as:
- shows important features
- captures our attention
- is pleasing to look at
- tells a complete story.
Create a commemorative box
Encourage students to use the criteria to select and design their inside and outside collages. The inside of the box should illustrate the impact of the experience on the personal identity of the person. The outside should show the person's influence on the community.
Extension: Write a letter to the profiled individual
Invite students to write a letter to their historical or contemporary individual to explain the significance of the commemorative box.
Extension: Present the box to the profiled individual or community
If appropriate, arrange for students to present the boxes to the profiled individuals or to people in the community from the same cultural group as the profiled individuals. It may be advisable to seek advice about the accuracy and authenticity of the representations prior to presentation.