Third graders learned some valuable conversation skills as they prepare to sit down and interview immigrants from all over the world. The project is part of their year-long focus on immigration.
For the interviews, students will practice on each other and with Graland employees who have immigrated before talking in February to members of the wider Graland community, such as parents and grandparents, who were born outside the US.
In preparation, Oscar Gonzalez, director of equity and inclusivity, first spoke to students about empathy and cultural competency. The goal was to ensure students had a better understanding of how to communicate respectfully and effectively with people from different backgrounds.
“Different is not wrong, and different is not bad,” shared Mr. Gonzalez. He gave examples such as ways to eat food, greet one another and concepts of personal space that can vary across cultures. “It’s important to not only notice how the other person is feeling but also to act on it to help them,” he said.
Mimi McMann, associate director of communications, also talked about how to connect with someone during an interview, crafting the right questions, following up with questions that dig deeper, and how to read a person’s body language.
“Body language and facial cues can help you know how your interview subject feels about the topic,” she said. “Then you can decide whether to dig deeper or to be kind and change the subject.”
Following the final interviews, students will design decorative boxes in the Gates Lab to resemble book covers that depict each immigrant’s story. These will be displayed on library shelves along with a summary paragraph. Other lessons in the immigration unit involve studying fiction and nonfiction literature, group discussions and, in February, Graland third graders will help welcome new US citizens at an official naturalization ceremony at the History Colorado Center.
“After several years of planning, this is the first time we are interviewing immigrants during this unit,” said Julie O’Connor, third grade teacher. “We hope it will help students connect with the immigrant experience so they can develop a deeper understanding and empathy for others.”
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.