In our History curriculum, our eighth graders regularly study immigration, and this year's unit has a twist: it focuses principally on local neighborhoods in Philadelphia.
Students were each assigned particular neighborhoods and were tasked with researching how immigration has changed over time in sections of Philadelphia. To begin their investigations, they considered a huge range of questions to fuel their research. Some questions they investigated related to who were the first groups to settle in a neighborhood; the reasons the groups emigrated or migrated to the neighborhood; what tensions (cultural, ethnic, language, religious, etc.) existed among groups in the neighborhood; what percentage of current Philadelphians are members of their neighboorhood's groups; and what kinds of jobs are available in those neighborhoods.
As part of the research project, teachers John King and John Anagbo organized a research trip to the Parkway Central Library in Philadelphia. They, along with our head of the Friends Free Library, Kate Garrity, traveled to Center City to dive into serious research. Staff librarians were delighted to receive our GFS students, and introduced them to the relevant resources that were available in three main sections of the library—the Social Science and History Room, the Newspaper and Microfilm Center, and the Rare Books Department.
In the Social Science and History Room, students interacted with neighborhood clippings, the regular collection, maps, and books from remote storage.
In the Newspaper and Microfilm Center, students were able to gather evidence from neighborhood newspapers for various time periods. Students were also treated to a demonstration of online search parameters for The Philadelphia Inquirer from 1860-2001, as well as 1981-present.
In the Rare Books Department, students visited a current exhibit called "Philadelphia: The Changing City," which was serendipitously appropriate for their needs! Maps on display also revealed interesting things about their neighborhoods of study.
John Anagbo commented, "It is important for our children to learn the history and character of the neighborhoods in which they live, explore others that are unfamiliar, and reflect on how the history of the neighborhoods in Philadelphia fit into the overall American character."