By Karenne Wood
Students heading back to school this year will benefit from new educational resources developed by Virginia Foundation for the Humanities (VFH) and its partners, which will help teachers and students better understand the history of Latin American immigration, immigrant experiences, and the challenges and opportunities presented by immigration.
A grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities earlier this year, for a VFH project entitled “State of Many Nations,” provided funds for two new teachers’ guides, in addition to six regional public programs in key locations throughout Virginia, and a slate of book programs at VFH’s Virginia Festival of the Book last spring, all tied to themes of immigration and immigrant experiences.
The new teacher guides, geared toward middle- and high-school teachers, revolve around a powerful documentary film, Harvest of Empire: The Untold Story of Latinos in America. Different versions of the teacher guides were produced to relate the material to both the Virginia Standards of Learning in social studies, and the Common Core national standards. Each guide is organized into chapters that focus on the political and economic histories of Mexico and countries in the Caribbean and Central America that have large immigrant populations in the United States. Five lesson plans use clips from Harvest of Empire as a starting point for discussion, research, and reflection. These lessons make connections across place and time, delve into current immigration debate and policy, and help to build empathy. Compelling student activities are provided to reinforce each lesson through simulation and reflection. Lessons can also be modified for English as a Second Language (ESL) learners.
The roots of this project extend back to an institute for Arlington County teachers on the subject of Latino immigration in the U.S., presented by VFH in November 2014, in cooperation with Arlington County Public Schools. One of the presenters in this institute was Eduardo López, co-producer of Harvest of Empire. A subsequent VFH grant, awarded to EVS Communications, supported development of an online version of the current Virginia guide. The original guide was produced by a team that included Mr. López, curriculum developer Julia Hainer-Violand, and three of the Arlington teachers who had participated in the 2014 institute.
Copies of the Virginia guide will be available at the National Council on the Social Studies Annual Conference, to be held December 2-4, 2016, in Washington, DC. They will be given to Virginia teachers in middle and high schools. Both the Virginia guide and the national version aligned to Common Core standards are available for download below.
Download the Guides
The partners in this project at VFH and in Arlington County are hoping that the guides will begin dialogues in classrooms throughout the country that can lead to a deeper and more nuanced understanding of Latino immigration experiences and the changing face of America.