Immigration Webquest 1840s-1920s

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During the years between 1820 and 1924, thirty-five million people came to America from countries around the world.  They had many reasons to leave their home countries (push factors) and to come to the United States (pull factors).  For most of them, the trip to America was difficult and dangerous.  European Immigrants came through Ellis Island.  Asian Immigrants came through Angel Island.  Other immigrants came by way of the US/Mexico border.  

Today almost 50% of all American citizens can trace their ancestry to those who came through Ellis Island. Most came to America from countries all over the world, as passengers booked in steerage class, on the many steamships that were ferried to Ellis Island for inspection. The vast majority had very little money and brought only the baggage they could carry. They endured a difficult and dangerous journey because of dreams of a new life filled with economic opportunity, religious freedom, and political liberty.

As you complete the following activities, you will learn about the experiences of immigrants as they came to the United States, settled in to their new home, the hardships they endured and the successes they attained.


Ellis Island in 1905Ellis Island in 1905


Learning Goal:

Today we are learning about immigration.  The purpose is to understand the immigrant experience and relate it to our lives.



Students will use their immigration journal (created in Word) to take notes over various immigrant experiences they've explored in this web-quest to meet the following objectives:

  • Compare and Contrast the experiences of immigrants entering through Ellis and Angel Island.
  • Analyze the motivation of immigrant groups that came to the U.S. between 1880-1920
  • Compare and contrast assimilation of Immigrants in the late 1800s to early 1900s with the assimilation of Native Americans in the 19th century.
  • Understand and relate to the experiences of immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s.


You will use Google Docsto create an Immigration Experience Journal to keep track of your notes and artifacts from this web-quest.  Please make sure you title each journal entry. For example, your first entry will be labeled, "Step 1: Vocabulary," your second entry will be titled, "Step 2: Immigration Push and Pull Factors," and so on.

Step 0:  Create an Immigration Experience Journal in Google Docs

1.  Log in to Google on the Tremper website (

2.  Open Google Drive.

3.  Click "Shared With Me"

4. Find the Document with your name that is labelled Immigration Webquest.

5.  Complete the typed portion of the webquest on the document.

Step 1: Vocabulary
Use a dictionary to look up these words and write them in your Immigration Experience Journal.  The Words:

  1. immigrant
  2. ancestor

Step 2 - Immigration and Push and Pull Factors

A.  Go to Mr. Beem's page about "push" and "pull" factors for immigration.  Write these factors into your Notes Packet.

B.  Do the Activity on this linked webpage.  Print the activity when you are finished, put your name on it, and hand it to your teacher.


Step 3- Assimilation, Americanization, and the Melting Pot

A.  Read The Melting Pot.  Answer the following questions in your journal:

  1. How did the author describe America as a Melting Pot?
  2. How does the author state that the idea of the Melting Pot differs from the Salad Bowl theory of American Immigration?

B  Read Encyclopedia Britannica: Americanization.  Answer the following questions in your journal:

  1. What was the goal of Americanization programs according to Encyclopedia Britannica?  (In other words, what did Americanization programs try to do with Immigrants?)
  2. List 2 similarities and 2 differences between the Americanization and Assimilation of Immigrants and the Americanization/Assimilation of Native Americans.



Step 4: Ellis Island Tour
A. You must answer these questions in your journal:

  1. Take the complete Ellis Island Tour. Take notes in your journal of things you find interesting or important (at least 10 facts).  
  2. List several countries where the immigrants who came to Ellis Island came from. 
  3. List the steps in the arrival process.
  4. What are some of the problems immigrants might face at Ellis Island? What are some of the reasons they might be detained.
  5. What would a future immigrant want to know about the process before coming?  
  6. Choose the countries of 2 immigrant groups that came through Ellis Island. Use the Library of Congress website to research 3 contributions to American culture that each group has made (Use the immigrant groups list on the left side to choose from the following groups: German, Irish, Scandinavian, Italian, Polish/Russian).  This would be examples of how their parts of their culture were adopted by the larger American culture, important contributions of 1st, 2nd, or 3rd generations of people who came from these countries, etc.

Step 5: Angel Island Home Page
A. In your journal answer the following questions:

  1. Explore this website. Take notes over things you find interesting (at least 5 facts).
  2.  When did the Angel Island Immigration Station Open? Why was it built?
  3. What was the difference in processing time between Ellis Island and Angel Island? 
  4. Write at least two sentences explaining why there might be a difference in the experiences of the immigrants at Ellis and those at Angel?
  5. How did many detained immigrants express their feelings?
  6. What were 'paper sons' and 'paper daughters' ?
  7. Pretend you are an immigrant detained for several weeks on Angel Island. Write a poem that you might have brushed or carved on the wall. Express your feelings about leaving your homeland, being detained on the island or your dreams for a new life.
  8. Choose the countries of 1 of the immigrant groups that came through Angel Island. Use the Library of Congress website or another reliable resource to research 2 contributions to American culture that this group has made(Use the immigrant groups list on the left side to choose from the following groups: Chinese, Japanese).  This would be examples of how their parts of their culture were adopted by the larger American culture, important contributions of 1st, 2nd, or 3rd generations of people who came from these countries, etc.

Step 6:  Tenement Museum
 A. Over 10,000 people lived at 97 Orchard Street between the years 1870 and 1915.  Explore this tenement and answer the following questions in your journal:

  1. Click on several floors and take notes on who has lived there in l870 and 1915. What changes did you note? What can you conclude about the families and neighborhood at each time in history by the changes you observed?
  2. How did the families organize their space?
  3. Make a list of activities that took place in 3 of the rooms.
  4. What things take place in your home today that did not or could not in 1900?


Step 7: Nativism -   
A. Read the article linked above about Nativism.  Answer the following questions:

  1. What is nativism?
  2. Why did Americans oppose immigration during this time period?

Step 8: Meet Today's Young Immigrants

A. Read about two (2) young immigrants from THIS century.  Their experience will be different from the immigrants of 100 years ago. 

  1. Create a Venn Diagram (or 3 column chart) to compare and contrast the immigrant experience of yesterday and today.
  2. Summarize the experience of these contemporary immigrants. Make sure you indicate what 2 immigrants you learned about.
Step 9: Personal Reflection Piece
A.  Answer the following questions in your Immigration Journal
  1. Write one paragraph answering the following questions:  If you were an Immigrant who came to America in 1880-1920, what would your experience have been like if you came through Ellis Island?  How would your experience have been different if you came through Angel Island?  Based on what you have learned, would opportunities would you have had as a new American?  What challenges would you have faced?


Your journal will be evaluated on the accuracy and completion of your entries. Use the check-list below to make sure you have adequately completed this quest.

Once you have checked to see that your journal is complete, make sure you have shared it with your teacher on Google Docs.


Immigration Journal Experience Check-list:

Completed all vocabulary words  2 points
Completed Immigration Push and Pull Factors & Activity  4 points
Completed Assimilation, Americanization, and the Melting Pot and Questions  6 points
Completed Ellis Island Tour & Questions  12 points
Completed visit to Angel Island & Questions  9 points
Visited Tenement Museum & finished Questions  3 points
Completed Nativism Readings & Questions 2 points
Current Immigrant Summaries (2) Thoughtful & Relevant2 points

Personal Reflection questions completed.  

  1. U.S. History: Questions are answered in a complete paragraph
  2. Points deducted if questions not answered a paragraph or not all questions are answered.
5 points EC

TOTAL40 points


Congratulations! You have finished your web-quest, and should have a good understanding of the experiences of immigrants to the United States at the turn of the 19th century. Please make sure you have shared your journal with your teacher so it can be graded.