What is one thing that Arnold Schwarzenegger, Albert Einstein, and Marcus Garvey have in common? The answer is simple; they all are famous American immigrants who contributed to the history of this country. These individuals were born in other countries, but were able to make their mark in the history books. When we think about the history of the United States we sometime forget about the many contributions made by American immigrants.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was born in Austria. In 1968, he moved to the United States. At the time he spoke only a limited amount of English, but had an overwhelming desire to pursue his dreams. He was able to become a famous actor, bodybuilder, and was elected governor of California in 2003. Albert Einstein is another famous immigrant who made history. This time with his scientific discoveries. Einstein was born in Germany, studied in Switzerland, and in 1933 accepted a position to work in the United States at Princeton University. Einstein is most noted for his work on the atomic bomb, but he spent his life working towards peace. Another famous American immigrant is Marcus Garvey, who was born in Jamaica, but made history when he founded the United Negro Improvement League in the 1900s. It was the first of its kind. Despite their personal struggles these individuals were able to succeed and add their unique contributions to the fabric of the United States.
Madeline Albright was born in Czechoslovakia, but held one of the highest positions in the United States government, Secretary of State. Elie Wiesel was born in Romania, and is the author of the book "Night", which chronicles his experience during the Holocaust. It is important for students to learn about individuals who were not born in this country, but were able to make great strides to succeed. Many American immigrants have made achievements in various areas.
In order to get students interested in this topic, ask them questions about their family history, especially questions related to the birth place or origin of their family. This topic about American immigrants and immigration can be a thematic and/or a humanities unit. One overreaching question could be based on the struggles immigrants face when they come to the United States? Or a humanities unit could be based on personal experiences of immigrants through the readings of non-fiction text. Novels that make that connection include, "When I Was Puerto Rican", by Esmeralda Santiago, "Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez" by Richard Rodriguez, "The House On Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros and of course "Night" by Elie Wiesel. As an extension, students could write to these authors and submit questions to them connecting to their personal experiences and/or struggles.
Some of the following lesson plans represent the diversity of the United States and include topics ranging from the immigration process, understanding the struggles associated with immigrants, and the economic, political, and social factors of immigration.
Lesson Plans on Famous American Immigrants and Immigration:
Independent Lens- In this lesson plan students will reflect on the value of contributions made by immigrants. Through this lesson students will have a better understanding of diversity and contributions made in this country.
Can We Have Unity in Our Classroom that represents a Nation of Immigrants?- This unit focus on the personal experiences of immigrants in the United States. Students will have a better understanding of immigration and reasons why many fled to this country.
Immigration to the United States- In this lesson, students discuss why immigration is a controversial topic in the United States. Students also read fiction and nonfiction books about immigration to formulate opinions about this topic.
Understanding Immigration- Students analyze how immigrant groups affect the United States in regards to its society and culture. Students will explain and compare and contrast new immigrant groups with old immigrant groups. This lesson covers issues of assimilation, culture, and labor.
Home Bound- In this lesson students focus on the Immigration and Naturalization Service. They also compare and contrast what life as a child is like in their homelands vs. being in the United States.