Humanities 6 students sit down with authors of My Two Cities, a Story of Immigration and Inspiration

Grade: 6
Class: Humanities
Teachers: Jon Greenberg and Kristin FitzGerald

Middle school students sat down with Hanni Myers and Robin Stein, authors of My Two Cities, a Story of Immigration and Inspiration, to hear the story of how Myers came to the United States in 1938. After escaping Vienna at the start of World War II, Myers embarked on a journey of immigration that challenged her own concepts of family, nationality, and home. The visit connected Myer’s story to the themes currently being discussed in Humanities 6, including the theme of belonging.

The discussion brought history to life for students, challenging them to consider how aspects of their own identities can relate to Myers’ story.  Students were encouraged to reflect on the following essential questions as they listened:

  • What were some of the wants and needs of the individuals who were forced to flee their country?
  • How can I understand another individual’s needs and take actions as an effective ally?

During the presentation, Myers showcased items that she has held on to since fleeing Vienna. A doll, for example, served as an integral symbol of where she came from. Myers spoke proudly of her life in America but she also encouraged students to hold all aspects of their identity close. She shared that her family spoke German at home, even when discussing things such as the American constitution (which her grandmother enjoyed studying).

It’s really important to accept the good things in America but maintain the culture from your parents and grandparents.

-Hanni Myers

Stein–who led the discussion–got students involved by asking them to weigh in on questions such as “Why would someone choose to come to America?” Responses included;

Here in Boston, we have good schools and healthcare.

-6th grade student

Free speech. In a lot of countries people can’t speak their mind and can’t express how they feel about certain things.

-6th grade student

Another question prompted students to ponder how they would make a new student feel like they belong.

Talk to them and be their friend.

-6th grade student

Be very welcoming. Make them feel like they belong and also help them get settled in.

-6th grade student

Following the discussion, students asked questions to Myers about her friends back home, if she has ever returned to Austria, and what learning tools she picked up once immigrating to America. Myers left students with a word of advice before wrapping up; “keep learning and be kind.”

More about this course: Who am I? Who are we? Who do we want to become? In this class, we will learn about the elements of culture by studying societies within the United States, across the globe, and in the fictional future. Students examine the craft of writers and the habits of readers as they continue to grow their own writing and reading lives. They practice applying research skills in search of answers to their own guiding questions. They experience a wide variety of innovative projects that encourage creative problem solving and often use cutting edge applications that allow them to demonstrate understanding in new and exciting ways. Humanities provides a collaborative, challenging, and dynamic introduction to a Beaver education.

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