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A Nation of Immigrants Simulation

Overview: As a nation of immigrants, the United States has attracted people of different
races, ethnicities, religions, sexes and ideas from around the world. Seeking opportunity
and freedom, people from around the world have made an often difficult voyage to build
a better life for themselves and their family. This lesson involves a brief simulation that
illustrates the prime reason people migrate (more opportunity). This activity serves as an
introduction that allows students to better understand the history of immigration policy in
the United States, and after promoting students to research the topic, enlists students to
offer recommendations on future immigration policy.

Resources Needed: About 150 pieces of candy, copies of provided reading “Coming to
America”, copies of provided reading “U.S. Immigration Policy: What Should We Do?
Policy Options”, copies of provided worksheet “My Options 5”

Part 1: Simulation
1. Draw a line using tape or chalk down the center of the classroom floor to separate it
into two halves.

2. Explain the rules: “This line is a boundary dividing side A and side B from one
another. One by one, I am going to distribute candy to only those students residing
within side A. Please, refrain from eating candy until I say it is time.”

3. Circulate around side A distributing candy to students. Carry the bag with you to
demonstrated a limited supply of candy. Be sure to communicate that students on side A
are getting candy not because who they are but due to where they reside. If students on
side B ask for candy, tell them that you can not give them any because they are not on
side A. DO NOT discourage students from sharing candy across the border. If students
cross over from side B to side A, they should be given a piece of candy. Eventually,
most students should ‘migrate’ to side A in hopes of getting candy.

Discussion Questions:
1. What happened?
-Did anyone switch sides, and if so, why?
-Did anyone share candy with someone else?
-Did anyone break the rules? (try to take someone else’s candy, eat it, or throw

2. How did people feel?

-Describe your reactions during the activity?
-Was anyone angry? If so, why and who were you mad at?
-How did people on side A feel about students from side B crossing the border?
-How did people on side B feel about people switching sides?
-Was anyone agree at the teacher? And if so, why?
-What if the sides were reverse, would students still feel the same way?
3. What does it mean?
-What do you think the exercise demonstrated?
-Is the real world, what would the candy represent?
-In the real world, what might the two sides represent?
-What if people crossing the border were sent back, would that be fair?
-Who might the teacher represent?
-Based on this activity, what is the major reason people migrate?

4. Critical Thinking
-Where did your ancestors come from, and why did they migrate?
-What are some of the limitations of this simulation? In what areas was the
simulation accurate?
-Why does this resource difference exist? How can we alleviate this difference?
-Since there is a resource difference in this room (candy), what should be done?

Part 2: Who Should Become Americans?

1. Distribute and assign copies of the student reading “Coming to America”
2. Distributes copies of “U.S. Immigration Policy: What Should We Do? Policy
3. After students have read the two readings, distribute copies of the student worksheet
“My Option 5”. Allow students time to work through the questions and develop their
policy option. Have students share their options either in small groups or as a class.

*Materials were taken from and adapted from People Connection (2006) A Nation of