Pupils view history from Ellis Island


"GIVE ME YOUR tired, your poor," has welcomed immigrants to this country for decades.

Last week, at Northwest Middle School, seventh-graders got a closer look at the meaning of those words when the media center at the school was transformed into "Northwest Island," a simulation of the Ellis Island experience.

The "immigrants" came to the island carrying newborn babies or mementos from home. They wore long fringed shawls, babushkas and black boots, or bathrobes and summer sandals to create the appearance of a newcomer to this country at the turn of the century.

Some got sick on the journey; others had a record of breaking the law and were afraid of deportation. All wanted a new home and a fresh start.

These were the lessons their teachers hoped they would learn after a monthlong study of immigration.

"A lot of our kids don't know where they came from," said Gayle Sands, a reading teacher at the school.

Sands, with fellow Northwest teachers Don Cornell, Emily Kissner and Kay Sutter, created the unit to make history come alive to the pupils. They required each child to create an immigrant who could be found in a work of historical fiction. Each pupil, through a roll of the dice, was assigned an immigrant to research, depict and write about.

"We thought that if the kids could look at how people got here, and the struggle they had, they would realize a lot of people gave up a lot of stuff so we could have the life we enjoy today," said Sands.

It seemed to work. On the day I visited Northwest Island, the chatter and babble of hundreds of voices created a din similar to the babble one imagines hearing from the Great Hall at Ellis Island.

Signs above each inspection post were written in a language no one could understand. And dozens of questions from officials were designed to be confusing and frightening.

Pupils got involved in the day. Mykayela Hardman, an "immigrant" from Ireland, thought the experience was neat and especially enjoyed creating and wearing period clothing.

Michelle Hill, "from Germany," observed, "The immigrants had to have their eyelids flipped back to check for diseases. I feel sorry for the people who had to come here like that."

Spring supper

Plan to arrive early and hungry for the annual spring supper sponsored by Grace United Church of Christ in Taneytown. The meal starts at noon on Saturday and is served until the food sells out, usually about 4 p.m. The event is held at the Fireman's Activities Building on the carnival grounds.

The annual event featuring oysters, fried chicken and ham attracts people from far beyond Taneytown. Chartered buses from Baltimore make the drive for the fried oysters, which, according to long-time supper committeeman Mike Garner, are double-dipped in eggs, milk and cracker meal.

Garner's committee has ordered 60 gallons of oysters and 140 pounds of crackers to coat enough oysters to feed an anticipated crowd of nearly 800.

Asked why the supper attracts such a following, Garner said, "We've been doing it for a long time, and everyone says our oysters are the best they've ever had."

Tickets for the supper are $9.50 for adults, $4.50 for kids ages 5 to 12 and free for kids under age 5. Carryout is also available at the above prices, plus 50 cents.

Information: 410-751-1977 or 410-756-2898.

Family fun

Spring must be around the corner when the local elementary schools turn their hallways and gymnasiums over to games, activities and fun on a Saturday. The first Family Fun Day of the season will start at 10 a.m. Saturday at Taneytown Elementary School.

A dunking booth, hands-on crafts, bingo, clowns and raffles round out the fun part of the day. K-9 demonstrations and fingerprinting by Taneytown police officers and a Health Fair room lend an educational note. And 4-H clubs will demonstrate crafts and give a performance.

These events have grown to include sponsorship from local businesses. Carroll County Bank and Trust Co., Wise Choice Construction Co., Taneytown Bank, Wantz Chevrolet, Crouse Ford and Evapco are supporting this Saturday's event.

And, notes publicity chairwoman Maggie Weicht, nearly all the teachers participate, especially in the donation of raffle prizes for the children. Teachers have given a bicycle, remote control car, compact disc player, Cal Ripken collectible Wheaties Box and more to ensure participation.

The Family Fun Fair committee includes Denise Carmack, Kathy Devilbiss, Laurie Fleischman, Sandy Sullivan, Barb Valentine, Maggie Weicht, and Debbie Hamilton.

Judy Reilly's Northwest Neighborhood column appears each Thursday in the Carroll County edition of The Sun.

Pub Date: 3/04/99

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