Eleventh Graders Get a Taste of the Immigrant Experience

Eleventh grade students got a taste of the early immigrant experience during a Cultural History–themed field trip into New York City.

“The trip was designed to support 11th grade studies of 19th century immigration to New York City and the assimilation of various nationalities and ethnicities into American cultural life,” said teacher Shelby Raebeck, who led the visit with fellow instructor Kyle Helke.

The trip began with a guided walking tour of Manhattan’s Lower East Side, focusing on cultural foodways and the neighborhoods that served as cultural sanctuaries for immigrants.

While learning about the influx of Eastern European immigrants during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, students got to sample bialys, Polish pastries filled with cooked onions, garlic, or poppy seeds, which became best known in New York’s Jewish communities. The tour guide explained that during the Great Depression, an impoverished immigrant’s food for the day might consist of a single bialy.

Over the course of the tour, students also sampled 10 other treats representing the area’s Jewish, Italian, Chinese, and Dominican communities, including pickled pineapples, fresh mozzarella balls, cannoli, and the students’ favorite bite of the day, Mongolian beef jerky.

Following their culinary adventures, students traveled the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island, with its clear and unobstructed view of New York City. They learned that the statue has long been a symbol of hope and new beginnings for immigrants to America.

“By visiting the Statue of Liberty and taking the tasting tour, students learned that national symbols and food are a key part of cultural identity,” said Kyle. “We hope that the students took away from the trip that that American identity has been constructed through our nation’s diverse populations.”