May 21, 2018

Story Laurie brings Ellis Island to life

May 15 & 22, 2017


It all started with a banana, Laurie "Story Laurie" McIntosh told the 5th graders circled around her on the library floor.

A demonstration on how to make gnocchi, an Italian potato dumpling, turned into an exciting lesson in family history when McIntosh decided to snack on the yellow fruit. The scent unleashed her Nonna (Grandmother) Carmella's memories of coming to America from Italy via Ellis Island - an eating her first banana, which she hated - a century ago.

Standing next to a steamer trunk carried through Ellis Island by a friend's great grandparents, McIntosh brought the experiences of Nonna and her family to life for the students. After the session in the library, McIntosh visited individual classrooms, where students shared the immigration stories of their own family and friends.

"It's great to have students talk with their parents, and they are excited to make a connection to family history," said 5th-graade teacher Christine McKane. "A light bulb comes on for them."

In addition to researching their family roots, the students keep a journal, write about coming to America from the perspective of an immigrant their age, and create an original song, something that began with McIntosh's first visit to DCS.

The professional storyteller's visit came as the students were wrapping up their study of immigration and marks the 10th year she has shared her knowledge at DCS.

"Duanesburg Elementary is the perfect setting for me to share my 'Coming to America' program," McIntosh said, "By the time I arrive, the students have an excellent understanding of what the immigrant experience was during the Ellis Island era, and we can dive right into discussing the fact that our nation is really a nation of immigrants, and see it as a beautiful patchwork quilt.

"When I first came to Duanesburg," she continued, "it was at retired 5th grade teacher Linda Armour's invitation. When Linda first asked about having the residency culminate in a song, I wasn't so sure about how to pull it off, as I had never done such a thing before. (i.e. group songwriting with students). Thanks to her asking, my career headed in a really wonderful new direction - one in which songwriting with students is something I am now often asked to do.

"I look forward to my annual visit every spring!"

 View photos below.