Creating Connections to the Past

Ellis Island has been a destination for school groups learning about immigration since it opened as a museum in 1990. For the last several years students from across the country have also visited Ellis Island virtually via videoconferencing. Now, students are creating a physical connection to Ellis Island through building replica benches for Ellis Island's Great Hall.

Read more about these great school-community-park collaborations below, and be sure to e-mail us with any ideas you might have for helping students to create connections to the past.

Students Measuring Original Bench in the Great Hall
Campbell-Savona High School students measure an original bench in the Great Hall on Ellis Island in preparation to design and build replicas.

NPS Photo Kevin Daley

Small Town Students Make Benchmarks in Big Apple

There was a distinct buzz in the air of the Great Hall on Ellis Island in November of 2010. Six high school students closely scrutinized a few simple but sturdy wooden benches that once provided a resting place for immigrants waiting to be interviewed by officials on Ellis Island to see if they would be allowed to enter the United States. Curious visitors stopped to watch the busy teens some of whom rattled off numbers as others jotted down observations down, and a few took photographs of small details on each bench.

So, what was the buzz about the benches? Read the full article to find out!

Seven Campbell-Savona High School students help to prepare lumber to be used as part of a replica bench.
Campbell-Savona High School students prepare lumber to be used in building replica benches for Ellis Island's Great Hall.

Paige Beach, Campbell-Savona High School

Students Make History at Ellis Island

The story of 12 million immigrants who came to the United States through Ellis Island in search of the "American Dream" began with them sitting on a bench in the Great Hall. It was a wait of a lifetime, to begin a new life. If they passed the mental and physical exams they would be able to start a new chapter in their lives in America.

That small but significant historical fact was brought back to life May 12, 2011 as high school students from upstate New York presented two replicas of those benches to Ellis Island. Read the full article to learn more!

Group photo of students, teachers, and staff involved in building the bench.
Prattsburgh Central School students and staff pose on the new bench in the Great Hall after the ceremony.

NPS Photo Kevin Daley

Achieving a New Bench-mark

On May 19 at 11 a.m., the students will present the replica bench to the staff at Ellis Island in a special ceremony that will include a musical montage of patriotic songs performed by members of the school's chorus and band. Utilizing the park's Distance Learning system, the entire ceremony will be broadcast back to the school, so that classmates, parents and interested community members can witness the project's crowning moment.

Read the full press release to learn more!

Hammondsport students and supporters stand with their bench in the Great Hall at Ellis Island.
Hammondsport students and supporters stand with their bench in the Great Hall at Ellis Island.

Chuck French, Hammondsport CSD

Keeping the Connection

Hammondsport CSD students delivered their replica bench to Ellis Island on May 2, 2015. Keeping the connection started by Campbell-Savona in 2010, after the installation ceremony the students spent the day immersed in Ellis Island and the immigrant experience. Read the full article to learn more about the partnership and the fabrication process.

Last updated: May 29, 2015

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Statue of Liberty National Monument

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