Preparing Students for a Trip to New York City to See The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Prior to a class trip to New York City, teachers often encourage students to spend time in the classroom viewing the Statue of Liberty’s various webcams. There is the Crown Cam, the Torch Cam, and even a full panorama live streaming cam. In 1916 access to the torch was restricted, making these webcams the first ever completely unobstructed view of the New York harbor in generations.
Webcams are a great way to familiarize students, but taking a boat trip to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island is a once in a lifetime adventure for many who have never visited NYC or this historic site before.
Thousands of people are back to visiting the State of Liberty again each day after interruptions from damage by Hurricane Sandy, and the Federal Government shutdown in October 2013. Did you know Lady Liberty’s face (not including the crown) is eight feet high? This 225-ton statue was a gift to the United States from France in 1886 to commemorate the important friendship between the two nations during the American Revolution. The statue was 350 pieces that had to be shipped to New York harbor then reassembled, a giant metal puzzle representing the brave fight for liberty. The famous Emma Lazarus poem “The New Colossus” from the voice of the statue ends with the remarkable reminder, “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
An incredible, breathtaking journey awaits all students who visit the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. Over twelve million weary, overwrought human beings passed through Ellis Island between the years 1892 and 1954. More than half a century of immigration occurred in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, first designated as a check in point by president Benjamin Harrison. The Native American’s called Ellis Island Kioshk, or Gull Island because of the abundant oyster beds the birds would feed on.
Many history and social studies teachers know that one of the most important places in the United States to visit for a significant historical and cultural reference is Ellis Island. Students can learn more about immigration to the United States during the years of growth and even investigate their own ancestry – provided they come prepared with information.
The American Immigrant Wall of Honor on the Ellis Island tour is astounding and has the effect of connecting many to their history as immigrants. The wall overlooks the Statue of Liberty and is the longest wall of names in the world, and you can join fourth and fifth generation Americans pouring over the wall looking for long lost relatives from Ireland, Italy, Germany, and other countries.
The People of America Center is the newest expansion of Ellis Island’s historic landmark built to preserve the countless stories of the families who came to make this one of the greatest nations on Earth. The exhibits are interactive and engaging, with stories ranging from the pre-Colonial immigration patterns to the great potato famine of Ireland.
The Flag of Faces exhibit is one of the most popular interactive displays at Ellis Island to date. Individual American faces set into the mosaics of red, white, and blue to make the American flag. You too can have your face and the faces of your family included in this project while it is still in process. Ask about this opportunity when visiting, or check out the Ellis Island Foundation website for additional details. You want to make sure to stop and spend some time with the Flag of Faces exhibit when on tour at Ellis Island.
The American Family Immigration History Center is one of the true highlights of any tour to Ellis Island. This engaging interactive exhibit allows visitors to access immigrant boat passenger records of more than 22 million people. When visiting students should come prepared by bringing the full name of an ancestor, their ethnicity, and approximate landing time in the Port of New York or Ellis Island. Chances are good these inquiries will result in seeing actual data on the first day the first member of a family stepped foot on American soil. There are also photos of ships and manifest records to be viewed, as featured on The Today Show on broadcast television.
Student trip leaders may now plan trips that incorporate a visit to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Now is the time to start going back to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, since many repairs have been made. The entire facility is not yet ready for the complete tour. Expect renovations on the rest of Ellis Island to be underway during 2013 and 2014 – until complete.