Liberty, Literacy, My Ancestry, and Me

Fifth-grade students at Olivet Elementary School in Salem County learn the role Ellis Island and The Statue of Liberty played to millions of immigrants who arrived in America thanks to a $9,996 grant from the NJEA Frederick L. Hipp Foundation for Excellence in Education. Pittsgrove Township School District educators Susan Duncan, Ron Athey, Karen Conroy, Robert Hall, Cheryl Ismail, Patricia Jankauskas, Evann Manella, Sherry Pecsi, and Carol Scull created the project to help students develop a better understanding of their ancestry.

Students and staff visit the sites and take photographs and video during the trip.

Author and illustrator Michael Dooling visit the school dressed in historic attire for an assembly for third, fourth, and fifth graders.

Students interview relatives to learn about the origin of their ancestors and create a family tree and present it to their class. Their stories are sent to Nationwide Learning, Inc., so that each student receives a hard-cover, bound book. Stories will also be published on a Kindle. Seven Kindles are available to read in class and to sign out to bring home and share with their families.

Students invite the mayor and family members to a Young Writers’ Celebration. Students read their ancestry books. Previous student presentations and photos from the trip to Ellis Island and The Statue of Liberty can be viewed. Awards are presented during the celebration.

Media coverage was included in the June 2, 2012 edition of Today's Sunbeam. The project was filmed by Classroom Close-up, NJ, and is scheduled to appear on NJTV.

As this project concluded, the students and their parents expressed an interest in continuing to research their family history, forming an even deeper connection to their ancestry after visiting Ellis Island. Read more about the results of this family history project in the Final Report.

For further information, contact:

Susan Duncan
School – (856) 358-2081