Educators Explore New Immigrant Communities

19 March 2010


Teachers speak with Barbara Sahli at the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center.

Teachers in Primary Source's new course, New Bostonians: Immigrants in Massachusetts Today, are developing a better understanding of immigrant students and their cultures. In addition to hearing from scholars about recent immigration patterns, participating educators visited field sites to meet leaders in several Boston-area ethnic communities. Groups of teachers met with Armenian Americans in Watertown, Haitian Americans in Mattapan, Brazilian Americans in Allston, Muslim Americans in downtown Boston and Burlington, Latin Americans in Waltham, and Sudanese Americans in Arlington.

Staff member Lina Yamashita accompanied a group to the Islamic Center in Boston's Roxbury Crossing, where they observed Friday prayers and spoke with community members afterwards. "It was fascinating to see so many people of all different ages all standing shoulder to shoulder and kneeling together," she reflected.

Teachers who visited Allston's Brazilian Immigrant Center enjoyed conversations with staff and community members. One educator, who teaches in Wellesley, came away with "lots of interesting info about Brazilian immigrants and the issues that affect workers, especially undocumented workers who often aren't treated well." She added, "I think we got a real flavor for what it's like to be a Brazilian immigrant in Boston (and Massachusetts)."

Another educator, from Carlisle, explored Watertown's Armenian community with fellow course participants. "It was very interesting to visit the grocery stores, as they are the gathering point of the community," she wrote. "What was apparent and surprising to me was how closely related the Armenian community is to the neighboring countries and culture, namely Syria, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, and even Italy! They are all connected to the Mediterranean Sea. The pungent spices, cheese, sweets, olives, baked goods surrounded all my senses, and marveled at the similarities of the products from all those areas....We dashed over to the office of the Armenian Newspaper. People were very friendly, and eager to give us information we wanted. I appreciated their generosity in giving us a lot of time, and interesting information."

The New Bostonians course will conclude on April 7 with a look at recent African immigration to New England and a panel discussion of best practices for teaching immigrant students.



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