The Partner Spotlight blog series highlights an organization that has been instrumental in the research, development, and content creation of Along. This month, we are introducing a new partner—Re-Imagining Migration—who have collaborated with us on new reflection questions centered on heritage and family, and belonging. Along spoke to Abeer Shinnawi, Director of Program, about why Re-Imaging Migration’s mission to ensure every student is educated in an inclusive setting matters.
How did you get involved with Re-Imagining Migration?
When the pandemic hit, I was working for a large school district in Maryland. A colleague and I wanted to have a place where we could share people’s anxieties and talk about what’s going on. So, we created a weekly live show on Facebook with a monthly theme. I’m a child of immigrants, so I wanted to honor that with an immigration theme for the month of June. I invited Adam Strom (Re-Imagining Migration’s Director) to join the conversation, and later, he invited me to join the team. I was excited about the role because I still wanted to work with teachers–I never want to be too far removed from the classroom.
How do you reach teachers and students?
Teachers know that their students are impacted by their families’ immigration stories. Some reach out and ask for resources and we go in and meet their unique needs. What’s cool about our work is that when people think about immigration and migration, they think of people coming from the outside, but migration within the country is also very common. I myself moved from Chicago to Baltimore. Whether we’re thinking about Angel Island, Ellis Island, the Trail of Tears, Chinese Exclusion, the Great Migration North and West–exploring these stories open us up to the idea of thinking about pieces of life that matter for everyone, not just newcomers.
Is there a project you’re particularly proud of?
A great example is our Moving Stories work. It’s a set of curriculum that’s tailored to various age groups and can be used to create a day-long, week-long, or even year-long project. Everybody has a story, and this curriculum follows a learning arc made up of a series of questions that explore those stories. Conversations happen peer-to-peer, student-to-adult, adult-to-adult, and open up a sense of empathy and understanding.We’ve used Moving Stories with the New York Department of Education. Last year, we focused on students from Yemen, newcomers or not, because New York has a large Yemeni population. It was fascinating to see and hear their concepts of coming to the country and what it was like adjusting. These students were able to use Moving Stories to dissect their own experiences and help newcomers from other countries. What surprised me most about the project is how much people want to learn and are willing to share.
Why did Reimagining Migration partner with Along?
We’re excited about the reach of a tool like Along. The focus on dialog and mutual reflection is similar to our Moving Stories work, and I wanted to be able to spark dialog about immigration and migration in an audience that might not already be thinking about this issue. Again, everyone has a story! Our reflection questions in Along can help people understand that these topics are universal, not just for recent immigrants.
What else would you like to share with educators?
We’re at a tipping point in education, where if we really want to focus on creating environments that reflect our students, the best way is to start with activities like Along and Moving Stories. If students don’t see themselves in the curriculum and climate at their school, they’re going to be disengaged, and all kinds of issues arise because we’re not addressing their needs. The best way to address this is to ask! Instead of us doing what we think students want, we can ask what they really want or need.
We’re excited to share new reflection questions from Re-Imagining Migration, and hope that you are inspired to share your story and to hear the stories of your students. Log in to Along to view these new reflection questions about heritage and family, and about belonging.