Immigration is the backbone of United States history and an important issue in current events. For many of your students, it’s not just a historical topic — immigration is a vital component to their identity. In the 80s and 90s, thousands of Haitians fled their homes for New York City, but how do you teach Haitian immigration in your classroom?
5 Engaging Ways to Teach Haitian Immigration in Your Classroom
1. Watch Documentaries
Documentaries are always a great way to expand your students’ perspective on a topic. For Haitian immigration, The Haitian Polo Documentary by DJ Scripz captures the experiences of this marginalized group. It explores the complexities behind how a single fashion item — the polo shirt — became a way for Haitian immigrants to assimilate and reclaim their identity in New York.
2. Research Immigration Reform
To understand immigration to America, it is helpful to know how U.S. immigration policies have changed over time. This lesson plan from the New York Times is a great way to get started. Let your students research immigration reform, including border security, paths to citizenship, and the economic impact of foreign-born workers. You could even turn your classroom into a mini-Congress; have your students draft an immigration bill, then debate and take a vote on it.
3. Listen to Today’s Immigrants
Immigration is not just a historical issue. Listening to personal stories about immigration can help your students understand its importance and broad impact across nearly every facet of American society. You can research these accounts online, and The Haitian Polo Documentary contains many first-hand stories of Haitian immigration.
4. Examine Charts & Graphs
Charts and graphs are a way to visualize immigration in America. With charts, your students can see the impacts of immigration on everything from urban populations to economic growth. There are even charts that depict the numbers of immigrants working white-collar jobs, which can dispel the common misconception that immigrants are only able to find work in service roles or blue-collar jobs.
5. Connect to Immigrants in Your Community
One of the best ways to teach a topic is to connect it to your students’ personal experiences. If you teach in a community with strong Haitian ties, let this guide discussions. Have students interview an immigrant in their community to hear these stories, or have them research their family’s stories of how they came to the United States. This is a powerful way to teach the subject.
To see if The Haitian Polo Documentary is right for your classroom, visit their website to view the trailer. This powerful documentary captures the personal stories of Haitian immigration, which can be a phenomenal way to help your students understand this time in New York City. You can also follow DJ Scripz on Twitter and Instagram.