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Heritage Wall celebrates immigration

ere are some of the Oxford Elementary students who were featured on the school’s Heritage Wall because they were born in other countries – (from left) Zanna Sayeau (Canada), Rachel Gubesch (Canada), Parker Fleming (Scotland), Joey Bertacini (Italy) and Brennan Mielnicki (Samoa). Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
November 03, 2010 - Long before declaring its independence as a nation in 1776, the United States was a land founded and forged by immigrants who came here seeking liberty and opportunity.

For centuries, "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" have come to our shores from all over the world to carve out a better life for themselves, their families and future generations.

Oxford Elementary School is celebrating America's unique origins with a new Heritage Wall.

"The purpose is to help students understand their families' connections around the world and become more internationally-minded," said fourth-grade teacher Rachel Hart, who serves as the school's International Baccalaureate coordinator.

It features a giant world map surrounded by photos of 84 students and seven teachers, who were either born in another country or have a parent or grandparent born in a foreign land. The featured students completed a heritage survey.

Each photo is connected to the student's country of origin by either a red, white or blue piece of yarn. OES students featured on the wall hale from 25 different countries.

"It is quite a sight to see," according to Hart. "The students have learned a lot about themselves, their family, geography, history and international connections."

Fourteen OES students and staff were born outside the U.S.A, 23 had parents born elsewhere and 54 had foreign-born grandparents. The immigration years span 1925 to 2010.

The country with the most representatives is Canada with 19 students/staff. It's followed by Italy with 14, then Mexico, England and China, each with six representatives.

Each year, the Heritage Wall be updated to reflect the school's current students and staff.

The Heritage Wall taught many students about why their families left their native lands and came to the U.S.

"I don't know if they would have known these personal stories had they not had this project," Hart said.

In addition to the Heritage Wall, OES students have begun establishing international partnerships with other schools around the world by sending messages via video and e-mail.

Seven OES classrooms have international partners in Mexico, Brazil, India, New Zealand, Germany and South Africa.

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