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'Immigration simulation' teaches 2nd graders naturalization process, empathy

MILLCREEK, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) - They boarded an imaginary boat and journeyed to the 'New World.'  Thursday, second-graders at a local charter school had a glimpse into how immigrants might feel as they come to America.
Canyon Rim Academy has hosted its annual 'immigration simulation' for 10 years now.  Teachers say this year's event made an especially significant impact, in the wake of a complicated -- sometimes confusing -- political climate that surrounds students. 
"You'd be surprised how much second-graders know about the news, and it's become more poignant, I think, to them and to us," said Brynn Grover, a teacher who helped organize the simulation.
Dressed in costumes and carrying luggage, each student was assigned to become a different historical immigrant for the day, and the children did not hesitate to embrace their roles. 
"The kids, I think, learn best when they're experiencing things like this," Grover explained. 
Upon their arrival to a 'Ellis Island,' the kids were greeting by the Statue of Liberty and sent into their 'first screening.' 
"I'm an immigration officer.  We're kind of first point-of-contact to get some basic information about who they are, where they came from," explained David Poulsen, a volunteer.
After the citizenship seekers finished there, they experienced mock bag inspections, health assessments, and of course, a challenging citizenship test. 
"It took me two times," one student told Good 4 Utah's Ali Monsen. 
The experience culminates with a patriotic naturalization ceremony, where the new citizens take the Oath of Allegiance and in doing so, make an important promise to their new nation. 
"I swore that I can be the best I can do," another student smiled. 
Teachers say they hope the lesson will stick with students forever and help shape them into adulthood. 
"Helping them experience this will hopefully make them more empathetic and better citizens," Grover said.
The students will also participate in an immigration open house event geared toward their parents, later Thursday evening. 

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