Immigration is often an interesting and personal topic for students, sparking conversations of “where did my family come from?” Many students are immigrants themselves. It is a topic that is both historical and modern, with immigration being a controversial and political issue today a well as having a rich and fascinating history in our country. The Historical Society of Pennsylvania education website has several unit plans about immigration. We have recently updated a lesson plan to align with current curriculum standards about Italian immigration in urban and rural Pennsylvania. Students will learn about the history of Italians in Pennsylvania through family histories and interviews, as well as secondary articles.
In addition to Italian immigration, the HSP site also has plans about Irish, German, and African immigration, as well as a plan called “Immigration in the American Tradition” about xenophobia throughout U.S. history. Thanks to a merger with the Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies in 2002, HSP now has a rich collection of sources regarding ethnic history, including ethnic Philadelphia newspapers, letters from immigrants, and records of ethnic organizations. For teaching about immigration and ethnic history in the U.S., HSP can be a valuable resource.