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"And the Streets Are Paved With Gold: Using Virtual Fieldtrips in the Classroom"

Brenda A. Dyck

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"History is mostly about people and how they felt about what was happening to them. To compel students to live within the past, to stand in the shoes of those who came before us, to flesh out and give human meaning to abstractions about democracy, freedom, liberty and opportunity, to understand the past from the perspective of the men and women who experienced it can be a disturbing experience - but ultimately a rewarding experience."

~Leon F. Litwik
Professor of American History
University of California, Berkley

The technologies of the World Wide Web go far beyond generating basic information. Not only do they have the ability to transport learners to a place and time that they may never have a chance to visit, they create opportunities for students to make emotional connections with the people who lived there. Virtual Fieldtrips, fieldtrips that are carried on by a computer simulation, are prime tools for supporting these types of learning expeditions.

Selected Images of Ellis Island and Immigration, ca. 1880-1920
From the Collections of the Library of Congress


And the Streets Are Paved with Gold Online Worksheet wired/fil/index.html ellisisland

As a result of using one of the most powerful virtual fieldtrips that the Net has to offer, my grade six students experienced firsthand what it was like to be an immigrant entering Ellis Island at the turn of the century. My online project, And the Streets Are Paved With Gold, challenged these students to rethink their mental models about immigration, attributes of racism and prejudice, the myths that beckoned immigrants to this country and the range of human experience represented by this symbol of the "American Dream", Ellis Island.

Making a Plan
Armed with my goal of connecting the far-off experiences of American immigrants with modern day grade six students, I created And the Streets Are Paved With Gold! by using an online tool called "Filamentality" and the exemplary online History Channel Ellis Island web site. Over the course of a week, this project immersed my students in an Ellis Island immigrant experience aimed at helping learners form emotional connections with the eclectic group of people who landed at Ellis Island on their way to start a new life in America.
Students were challenged to take what they learned and ultimately produce writing that would demonstrate the depth of that experience. Students were required to answer questions from various levels of Bloom's taxonomy, as well as produce a short piece of writing that demonstrated their depth of understanding of the immigrant experience.

Selected Images of Ellis Island and Immigration, ca. 1880-1920
From the Collections of the Library of Congress


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Meridian: A Middle School Computer Technologies Journal
a service of NC State University, Raleigh, NC
Volume 8, Issue 1, Winter 2005
ISSN 1097 9778
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