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School Stories

Grade 3: Welcoming Refugees to Colorado

For many years, Grade 3 service learning at Graland has focused on immigration. It complements the social studies curriculum, which hones in on Colorado – who came to our state, where they came from and why. Students learn that Colorado continues to welcome immigrants and refugees, and the service learning component looks at who is coming here and why.
Service Learning Coordinator Christi James, who immigrated from Mexico as a young person and is a naturalized American citizen, shares her story with third graders, and in a normal year, so does Grade 2 Teacher Justine Hall, who is also a “newcomer.” Students learn the differences between an immigrant and a refugee. Señora James explains how immigrants move to another country because they are either “pulled,” or drawn to, a new place or “pushed” out of their country of origin. While not all “pushed” immigrants are refugees, refugees receive an official status upon demonstrating persecution, or fear of persecution, due to race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.

Prior to the pandemic in a typical year, Grade 3 students participated each year in a naturalization ceremony for new Americans at the History Colorado Center. They sang songs, made gifts and welcome cards, and witnessed first-hand the momentous and joyous event.

Last year, Señora James forged a partnership with Project Worthmore, a local nonprofit that works to respond to the direct needs of the more than 60,000 refugees living in Colorado. This year, a recent Zoom session with a representative from Project Worthmore further opened third-graders’ eyes.

“My class met via Zoom with seven immigrants who shared their immigration stories,” said Grade 3 Teacher Julie O’Connor. “After they spoke, students had the opportunity to interview them, asking questions they had thoughtfully prepared in advance.”

Students are now in the process of deciding how to best support Project Worthmore while staying safe and following health protocols. “They are writing a grant to the Service Learning Committee, as part of our persuasive writing unit, to request funds for rice and beans as well as care kits to send to refugees affiliated with Project Worthmore,” said Mrs. O’Connor.

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Graland Country Day School

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.