Teaching for a Global Virginia

Culture & Identity  •  Global Virginia  •  News

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.

State of Many Nations program at the 2016 VA Festival of the Book. Photo by Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff
State of Many Nations program at the 2016 VA Festival of the Book. Photo by Pat Jarrett/VFH Staff

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.

An Excerpt From the Teachers’ Guide:

“Today, Latino children represent the largest and fastest-growing minority population in the nation’s public schools. Some 25 percent of all the children in the U.S. are Latino, and census figures estimate that more than 500,000 young Latinos will turn 18 every year — for the next 20 years. As one of the country’s largest immigrant gateways, the Washington metropolitan area has experienced similar growth. In fact, the number of Latinos in the region increased a startling 98 percent since 2000, and nearly 200,000 Latino children are currently attending public schools throughout the region.

Learning how the living history portrayed in Harvest of Empire impacts Central American students in the classroom today is of vital importance for any teacher, counselor, or school-based administrator. By using selected segments from the film, educators and students can better understand the migration story of their community and open an enlightening window into the unique Central American family dynamic that affects Latino academic achievement, graduation rates, and parental involvement.”

Man walking along the US Mexico border - Courtesy Eduardo López
Man walking along the US Mexico border – Courtesy Eduardo López

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

Harvest of Empire_2016 Teacher's Guide_Virginia-1
Virginia Teachers’ Guide (pdf)
Harvest of Empire_2016 Teacher's Guide_National-1
National Teachers’ Guide (pdf)

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.