Teaching Immigration with the Immigrant Stories Project

Cover of Teaching Immigration with the Immigrant Stories Project

Teaching Immigration with the Immigrant Stories Project helps students learn about aspects of United States immigration, past and present, through the personal experiences of immigrants and refugees. The lessons highlight digital stories from the Immigrant Stories collection: brief, original videos made by immigrants and refugees. These creative and poignant personal and family immigration stories include accounts of families separated and reunited, memories of life in refugee camps, and finding love and pursuing education thousands of miles from home. The videos are 3 to 5 minutes long, so students may watch several in class. 

The curriculum includes three units:

Unit One: Understanding Immigration introduces students to why and how individuals and families immigrate.

Unit Two: Refugees and Asylum Seekers introduces students to the U.S. refugee and asylum systems.

Unit Three: Youth, Identity, and Immigration teaches students about the experiences of immigrant youth and immigrants’ children.

Each unit incorporates human rights as a framework for understanding immigration. Approaching immigration through the lens of human rights helps to build empathy by centering the discussion on human experiences and values, not on abstract statistics.

Teachers may choose to teach one unit or all three; units one and two have additional optional activities. The curriculum includes lesson plans, classroom activities, worksheets, background summaries, and up-to-date fact sheets for teaching about many aspects of contemporary immigration. PowerPoints explaining complex aspects of the U.S. immigration system are available to download. 

The lesson plans in Teaching Immigration with the Immigrant Stories Project are based on Energy of a Nation: Immigrants in America, 3rd Edition, published by The Advocates for Human Rights in 2012. The lessons have been fully updated and revised, with engaging new content drawn from the rich resources of the Immigrant Stories project.

The Immigrant Stories Project

Immigrant Stories is a digital storytelling and archiving project run by the University of Minnesota’s Immigration History Research Center (IHRC). Founded in 1965, the IHRC and its partner, the IHRC Archives, are North America’s oldest and largest interdisciplinary research center and archive of immigrant and refugee life. Since 2013 Immigrant Stories has collected, shared, and preserved the experiences of contemporary immigrants and refugees.

A digital story is an original 3-5 minute video that tells a personal story. Participants write their own story, record an audio voiceover, and add images and sound (including personal photos, family documents, home videos, and original music) to create a brief video. To view the entire Immigrant Stories collection, visit: http://z.umn.edu/iscollection.