Understanding San Francisco Bay Area Immigration Through an Exploration of Laws and Images

bySara Stillman


As I sat beside Manuel, 1 pouring over the words within his college admissions essay, words he had written and rewritten numerous times before asking me to read it, I realized I hardly knew the young man seated at the table with me. Since he entered our school in the seventh grade, Manuel had always been in one of my art classes. His talent and passion for drawing meant we spent a great deal of time in the art studio together during class, at lunch, and often after school. He was a student I thought I knew everything about and now as he was applying to college and about to graduate, I learned the most important moments in his life were stories I had never heard. Stories of getting into fights and running with gangs at the age of eight, of leaving his grandmother's home in Mexico City to sleep on the floor beside his mother in his uncle's one bedroom apartment in Oakland a few weeks later; an apartment where numerous people also slept on the floor. Manuel wrote about having to be quiet and sit in the apartment all day by himself while his mother looked for work. During this time alone he would draw on scraps of paper to occupy and comfort himself. In his essay he described his first weeks of school as he struggled to understand what his third grade teacher was saying and how all of the kids ignored him because he did not understand how to play the games that filled the schoolyard. Although he said this time of transition was way behind him, I could tell by the words woven within his essay that this story was and always will remain a significant part of his life.

After finally hearing the real story of Manuel's journey I realized there must be dozens like his filling my art studio each day. Stories that are imbedded within the fabric of whom each student is, and stories that I have to encourage to be told. At our school when the bell rings, student conversations bounce from wall to wall and floor to ceiling consuming the halls for only four minutes until the bell rings again for the next class. In that short amount of time if I am wise enough to just listen I can hear languages and accents from Mexico, Yemen, India, Somalia, Ecuador, Sri Lanka, American Samoa, Ukraine, El Salvador, China, and the Southern United States. I am reminded that each voice has its own story to tell, some students' stories are from their own memories while others may need to ask family members for details, but each story has a place within our classroom. I hope that this unit will help my students share their stories as they strengthen their voices, look critically at political cartoons depicting immigrants throughout different time periods, and learn from contemporary artists creating work that reflects the current immigration debates in our country.

An immigrant's journey to the United States is a personal story, however an experience that is often shaped within U.S. immigration laws. Through this unit we will explore current and historic representations of those who made treacherous passages to reach the Bay Area and how those images reflect the culture and laws of the time. Our study will center around four federal laws that reflected and also shaped the culture of Bay Area immigration: the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Immigration Act of 1924, the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, and the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986. As we learn about each law through an Art Based Research Approach, students will examine images that represent immigrants during the time each law was enacted, break down new vocabulary, and try to make meaning of these laws and their impact on immigrants living in the Bay Area and those planning to make the journey.

Over three months our Art I class will create a timeline to visualize the scope of our learning, illustrate new vocabulary, read first person narratives from immigrants, view documentaries, visit the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA), and examine maps, art work, photographs, and newspaper articles to deepen their understanding of how federal laws shaped immigration to the Bay Area and how those laws are reflected in the current debate over immigration. Students will create pieces in their sketchbooks that use image transformation techniques to document their learning and use their sketchbook work as a reference to guide them through a culminating mixed media project that asks students to examine their views on immigration and how it relates to their journey to the Bay Area.


Emery Secondary School (ESS) is a 9 th -12 th grade school serving 223 students in the 1.2 square mile city of Emeryville, California 65.9% of the school districts students are considered socioeconomically disadvantaged, 17% are English Language Learners, and 8.5% have disabilities. 2 Recently ceased state redevelopment funding over the past decade brought several tech companies, big box stores, and luxury lofts to our area and replaced the abandoned industrial warehouses of Emeryville's past. The new commerce and housing have greatly improved serious economic and safety issues that plagued Emeryville for decades. However, the new development in the city greatly contrasts with the experiences of my students and their families, many of whom have lived in Emeryville and neighboring West Oakland for several generations. According to the 2010 U.S. Census, the average household size in Emeryville is 1.72 persons. 3 The shift in new luxury housing geared toward adults without children has forced many of our families to seek housing on the eastern, and older edge of the city or in neighboring Oakland and Berkeley.


Although I am known as a Visual Arts teacher, I feel strongly that the most important lessons I can teach my students involve critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills. So I focus most of my curriculum and instruction on these three strategies taught through art making. The Art Based Research approach allows me to expand upon the notion that art is a lens for which all of our learning can take place and throughout this unit Art Based Research will enable my students to blend note taking and qualitative research through an aesthetic process that encourages art making to collect data and conduct analysis.

This in depth research demands that students engage in thoughtful and meaningful historical inquiry using the visual skills they've developed previously in class. Through Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), students will interpret primary and secondary historical documents visually and verbally. Seeking clues and context as they examine maps, cartoons, and photographs students will develop an understanding of the issues and ideas that surrounded the immigration debate of each time period we study. As each document is analyzed through critical class discussions, students begin to put together strong and personal knowledge of immigration throughout a historical context. In collaboration with VTS, students will conduct research by visual note taking, making sketches, physically manipulating copies of primary source images, and posing inquiry questions within their sketchbooks. The process of collecting information and expressing ideas visually allows students to make meaning from within the laws we are studying, forming their own questions for further research, and expressing their learning to others.

Guiding Questions

How have 19 th and 20 th century federal immigration laws shaped immigration to the Bay Area?

What common themes run through each of the federal laws we are exploring? How and why have these laws changed over time?

How do images of immigrants in popular culture impact opinions about immigrants?

How does our Art Based Research help us investigate the story of immigration in the Bay Area? What stories literally become visible when we work with historical and visual documents?

What is our role as artists and social commentators to tell our story and the stories of immigrants?

United States Immigration Laws and Images That Reflect The Climate They were created

As students explore each federal law they will learn to look for common themes between the laws and search for connections to the current immigration debate and the issues surrounding it. Students will examine how each law laid the foundation for the laws that subsequently came after it. They will dissect which elements remained in new laws and develop an understanding of why certain aspects of laws were eliminated and how these changes reflect the culture of the time. Students will also look for connections to the San Francisco Bay Area, the immigrants who built our city, and how the need for foreign laborers played a role in United States immigration policies. The migration of African Americans from the southern United States personal story that is common among many of my students and deeply woven within the growth of our city. Students will consider how immigration laws also impacted domestic migration and the role of newcomers from different regions across the United States had upon our growing city.

As an introduction to each new law, students will begin by examining two visual representations of immigrants and the immigration debate from the time period that the law was created. The teacher will guide the class through a discussion of what they see and interpret in the image presented using Visual Thinking Strategies. Through a critical class discussion with the teacher only facilitating the conversation, not providing historical context or any further information, students will begin to dig up how immigrants were represented, the political and social issues of the time, and speculate what restrictions might be put upon immigration. Students will use their visual arts knowledge to conduct research within their sketchbooks as they examine the text of a federal law closely, read historical newspaper articles, and listen to texts that are read aloud. As their understanding of each federal law and its impact on immigration develops, students will continue their critical discussions and circle back to the image(s) that first introduced them to the time period and the laws they studied. This second look will open students up to a deeper conversation about the image(s) where they apply their own, newly gained knowledge about the law and the time period in which it was created.

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

The images recommended for discussion around The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

using Visual Thinking Strategies are: JH Nast's "Difficult Problems Solving Themselves" from Harper's Weekly March 29, 1879 and JH Nast's "Throwing Down the Ladder by Which They Rose" from Harper's Weekly July 23, 1870.

Nast's first cartoon depicts two different scenes in symmetrical harmony. On the left, an African American carrying a suitcase labeled "A. Freedman. From Bull-Dozed State. U.S" eagerly looking off the page as a sign points him "to the WEST". On the right side of the composition is a man dressed in traditional Chinese clothing for the time. He is leaning on a post that holds an identical sign that says "to the EAST" as he reads a newspaper that is called "The San Francisco Hoodlum" with a headline that reads "Go East Young "MAN".

The second image depicts a large wall with words "The "Chinese Wall" Around the United States of America" boldly placed on it. On top of the wall is a crowd of cheering assumingly native-born white men and below it, escaping a falling ladder that has the word "emigration" on it are fleeing and bewildered Chinese men. At the top of the wall is flag that reads "Know-Nothings, 1870, Pres. Patrick, Vice Pres. Hans".

By 1846, following the acquisition of California from Mexico, the residents of the sleepy port of San Francisco knew of the city's potential growth simply by its prime location on the Pacific coast. The opportunities for trade up and down the coast and across the ocean with Asian Nations was obvious. However the 1848 discovery of gold by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill in Coloma California just two years later accelerated the city's growth at an unimaginable pace. The California Gold Rush brought a wave of, mostly male, immigrants from far away nations and migrants from the United States to Northern California in droves and San Francisco saw its population grow from 1,000 in 1848 to over 20,000 by 1850. 4

Although Chinese workers had settled in New York City earlier in the 19 th century, the Gold Rush marked the first major immigration of Chinese to the west coast. Mostly comprising healthy male adults, the Chinese migrant population was at first welcomed in California because they provided an available labor source at a time when California was disconnected from the rest of the nation. Their labor was greatly needed in the rapidly expanding west. For example, Chinese immigrants helped to build the first transcontinental railroad completed in 1869. As the Gold Rush began to taper off and the need for labor lessened, the flood of Chinese and other immigrants hoping to make their fortunes led to ethnic tensions in California. Cities like San Francisco and its surrounding towns grew beyond capacity and available resources became scarce. This combined with the dwindling supply of gold to mine in 1852 led the state of California to enact the Foreign Miners Tax, which levied a monthly $20 tax upon each foreign miner. 4 This steep tax was successful in discouraging many Chinese from prospecting for gold and propelled the culture of native-born white Americans wanting restrict the immigration of Chinese laborers. Additionally, the state stood to benefit greatly from the Foreign Miners Tax, when it was active from 1852-1857 the tax provided between 25 percent and 50 percent of the state's revenue. 5

During the 1870s, anti-Chinese sentiment and discrimination grew. The exotic culture and art that westerners consumed prior to this time was a homogenized view of Asia, not differentiating the many nations within Asia. This changing image of the Chinese combined with over populated cities in California like San Francisco and competition for resources played upon American fears about race, class, and gender relations. 6 Prior to this period, there were no federal or state provisions restricting free immigration, however a culture of economic fears where native-born Americans attributed unemployment and declining wages to Chinese workers led California state legislators to begin unsuccessfully trying to enact laws restricting Chinese immigration in the state. The federal courts maintained that only the federal government had the right to regulate immigration.

The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act was born out of the growing anti-Chinese sentiment in the west and the first major Federal law to restrict entry of an ethnic working group. Halting Chinese labor migration for ten years and specifically prohibiting Chinese from becoming U.S citizens, although they were previously excluded from pursuing citizenship due to the Nationality act of 1790, which designated the right to naturalized citizenship to "free white persons" of good moral character. 7. The law also posed a major dilemma to the Chinese already in the United States: should they remain or return to China to reunite with their families. Many Chinese who came on their own during the Gold Rush did so with the intent of making their fortunes and returning home, however the idea of leaving the country with no chance of returning was not part of their original plans. The Act required that the limited number of Chinese non-laborers: Students, teachers, merchants, and diplomats who sought entry to obtain a certificate of exemption from the Chinese government verifying that they were qualified to immigrate. The exempted classes found that this was often difficult to verify. Intended to last ten years, the Chinese Exclusion Act expired in 1892. However through the Geary Act, Congress extended the exclusion provisions an additional ten years. The extensions made during the Geary Act were made permanent by congress in 1902 with added restrictions that required of the registration of every Chinese resident in the United States and the need for a certificate of residency to avoid legal action resulting in deportation. The Chinese Exclusion Act remained intact until Congress repealed it in 1943, when China was seen an ally against Japan during World War II.

The Immigration Act of 1924

The images recommended for student discussion of The Immigration Act of 1924

Visual Thinking Strategies are: Gale's "We'll Tell the World" from the Los Angles Times April 15, 1924 and Evans' "It's Going To be Just Turned Around" from the Columbus Dispatch 1924.

In Gale's cartoon an Uncle Sam figure is standing with one hand on the "U.S. Melting Pot" and the other holding out a pair of glasses to a small globe with naïve facial features. Uncle Sam is blocking the globe from gaining access to the large smoldering cauldron as he says, "With these glasses you can't keep mistaking this for a Garbage Can!"

Evans' image shows the contrast of two almost identical scenes of a funnel shape form leading new European immigrants to the United States. The top depiction titled "The Present Immigration Law" has an abundant and jumbled crowd of people entering the wide end of the funnel from Europe and an equally large crowd of people exiting the narrow end of the funnel that says "Selection at Ellis Island" as it drops them in the "U.S.A.". The lower image depicted is of the "Proposed Immigration Law" where again we see a funnel except this time the narrow end has small trickle of people entering from Europe that says "Selection at the Source" as they exit in the "U.S.A.".

The post World War I recession heightened American fears that encouraging more immigrants from other nations would only increase unemployment across the nation. Overcrowded northern cities, in particular, faced challenges of new growth as African Americans from the rural south migrated north to alleviate wartime labor shortages. The shape of the American city changed rapidly with this influx of newcomers and caused long time residents of northern cities, both African American and white, to seek ways to curb urban growth.

The Immigration Act of 1924 is rooted within the 1917 Immigration Act passed by congress as the first widely restrictive immigration law, a law that reflected the uncertainty generated over national security during World War I. The Act included a literacy test that required immigrants over sixteen years old to demonstrate basic reading comprehension skills in any language. The law also increased the tax paid by new immigrants upon arriving in the United States. The Act excluded anyone born in a geographically defined "Asiatic Barred Zone" except for those Asian countries that fell under different laws and treaties. In 1898 following the Treaty of Paris, the United States gained indefinite colonial authority over Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines positioning the U.S. with very strategic access to Asia and allowing immigration access to Filipinos. The Gentlemen's Agreement between Japan and the United States was seen as an avenue to reduce tension between the two nations. Under the agreement, the United States would not restrict immigration to Japanese already living in the U.S. and permit the immigration of their spouses, children, and parents. In exchange the Japanese government would not allow further emigration to the United States. China was also not included in the Barred Zone, because the Chinese were already restricted from obtaining visas under the Chinese Exclusion Acts. Many members of Congress felt that the literacy test was not enough to prevent most potential immigrants from entering the United States, and sought new methods to restrict immigration throughout the early 1920s. Prior to which the Dillingham Commission, led by Republican Senator William P. Dillingham, was formed to find ways to curtail immigration. The commission determined that southern and eastern Europe posed a serious threat to American society and culture and should therefore be greatly reduced 8. The commission introduced the notion of an immigration quota system, which quickly gained popularity. The Looking to the nations represented in the 1890 and 1910 census, the quota conversation focused on limiting the number of immigrants by nation during the early 1920s. As the Congressional debate grew, the quota system became so imbedded that it wasn't questioned, rather discussion focused on how to adjust it.

The 1924 act also known as the Johnson-Reed Act, included the National Origins Act and the Asian Exclusion Act emphasizing homogeneity in the United States by favoring native born Americans with Western European origins, particularly Anglo-Saxon origins, over Southern and Eastern Europeans through a strict quota system. The system allowed visas to 2% from countries already represented in the 1890 census and established preferences for some relatives of U.S. residents that leaned toward filling the nation with more laborers. 9 The provisions favored the children, parents, and spouses of current residents and also preferred immigrants who were 21 and over and skilled in agriculture. The Act also defined the term "immigrant" and labeled all other non-authorized entries into the United States as "non-immigrant" and temporary visitors, giving birth to the term non-documented "illegal immigrant". In an attempt to further define the enforcement of these new regulations, the Act established the "consular control system" of immigration, dividing the roles and responsibilities for immigration between the State Department and the Immigration and Naturalization Service. With these two federal agencies monitoring immigration, fines and restrictions could be more easily imposed, as well immigrant documentation more efficiently checked. 10

The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965

The images recommended for student discussion of The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 Visual Thinking Strategies are: Herb Block's, "The time has Come" from the Washington Post, June 1963 and a graphic from a U.S. News & World Report called "The New Look In Immigration", October 11, 1965.

Block's cartoon depicts President John F. Kennedy standing on top of the White House raising a tattered American flag. Below the nation's flag is a smaller white flag with an excerpt from Kennedy's recent speech on Civil Rights that says, "The time has come for this nation to fulfill its promises."

The U.S. News & World Report graphic displays a prominent orange arrow that points to a small black and white image of people standing in line below a sign that reads, "United States Immigration". On top of the arrow states, "Under rules just approved by Congress, officials forecast these changes in the flow of immigrants to the U.S." below is text breaking down different regions of the world and the anticipated change in immigrants from these areas.

Throughout the United States, the 1950s and 1960s brought change in waves that no one could ever have imagined. New views on discrimination and racism were at the heart of many social and political debates, bringing to light the outdated current immigration laws that became increasingly difficult to defend both at home and abroad. Reforming the current laws and abolishing the National Origins quota system became an issue that President Harry Truman and Senator (and later President) John F. Kennedy championed. The discrimination imbedded within the immigration laws became a foreign policy embarrassment that hindered U.S. Government efforts to portray itself as righteous nation during the Cold War. 11 President Truman justifying his veto of the Immigration & Nationality Act of 1952, which Congress later overrode stated, " Today we are "protecting" ourselves, as we were in I924, against being flooded by immigrants from Eastern Europe. This is fantastic. The countries of Eastern Europe have fallen under the communist yoke-they are silenced, fenced off by barbed wire and minefields-no one passes their borders but at the risk of his life." 12 Also known as the Hart-Cellar Act, the new legislation established a radical shift from the policies of the past that excluded Asians and Africans with a preference for Western Europeans over Southern and Eastern Europeans and provided the structure for today's current immigration laws. By dissolving the restrictive and biased national origins quota system that had remained for four decades, the new Act replaced it with a preference system that focused on a potential immigrant's specialized work skills and family relationships with citizens or residents of the United States. The shift from national origins quotas to hemispheric quotas increased the total annual number of immigrants entering the United States from 150,000 to 290,000. Immigrants from eastern hemisphere nations were permitted up to 20,000 per nation with a hemispheric total of 170,000 while western hemisphere nations were not limited in the amount of immigrants allowed into the United States, however the number for the entire hemisphere was capped at 120,000. 13 These new figures allowed for significant shifts in the nation's demographics with many more immigrants coming from African, Asian and Latin American nations rather than European nations that dominated immigration in the past.

With family reunification becoming a focus, the new law also attempted to keep immigration at a manageable level. The noble goal of family reunification seen by lawmakers more as a symbolic gesture and an extension of civil rights rather than radical changes to the number of immigrants allowed into the country. The thought being that the impact of the new law would not be that great and projected increases in Indian, Asian, and Latin American immigrants would not significantly impact overall U.S. immigration. However the new provisions for family reunification, under the non-quota admissions, gave way to more immigrants than lawmakers calculated as more family members than anticipated came into the United States

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 and the Impact of California Proposition 187

The images recommended for discussion of The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 and California Proposition 187 Visual Thinking Strategies are: Lalo Alcarz's "La Cucaracha", 1994 and Rex Babin's "Haitian Refugees" from the Sacramento Bee.

"La Cucaracha" is a play on the insect killing spray Raid. In this mock advertisement, Alcarz presents us with a white male politician who presents viewers with a large can of "FRaid anti immigrant boarder spray". The Politician speaks to viewers through a talking bubble that says, "S.O.S. Spray On Spicks! Keeps working for up to 2 elections." Beneath him is the endorsement, "9 out of 10 politicians prefer FRAID anti-immigrant spray".

Babin's image depicts the Haitian refugee crisis with an over crowded sailboat tipping to the left as it almost reaches the shore. The boat's occupants, roughly sketched figures, are seen spilling out of the boat as it looks like will fall over any minute. Close by we see the coast of Florida welcoming the refugees and a caricature of George W. Bush carrying his boots with his pant legs rolled up as he wades into the water to ask, "I Don't suppose any of y'all would happen to be Cuban, now would ya?"

Since the 1965 Immigration Act, new ethnic groups emerged from the new waves of migration from Latin America, Asian and Africa to the United States. By the 1980s, both "skilled" and "non-skilled" jobs were increasingly filled by non-native born Americans, some here legally and some illegally. The perceived economic threat newcomers posed, frightened many American workers and debates over whom should be allowed to remain in this country was reignited. As with earlier waves of immigration that hinged upon the need for labor in the U.S., the United States/Mexico border migration was often seasonal and followed the rhythm of U.S. agricultural labor needs. However post-1965 migrants from those from nations within Latin America were not only seeking job opportunities and higher wages in the United States, they were also fleeing corrupt governments, gang violence, and civil wars. 14 These factors often meant that these illegal workers who once quietly came and went across the southern U.S. boarder were staying in the country at an increasing rate.

The passage of the Immigration and Reform Control Act, also known as the Simpson-Mazoli Act, quickly raised concerns among civil rights activists who foresaw discrimination and abuse against Latinos. The act shifted much of the responsibility for monitoring legal and illegal workers on employers by requiring them to attest to their employees' legal status. This was carefully documented through the newly introduced I-9 form, which ensured that all workers provided federal proof of their ability to accept employment. With the theory that low prospects for employment would reduce undocumented immigration, the act also criminalized the act of knowingly hiring an illegal alien and established penalties including steep fines ensuring that employers followed the new law. 15

IRCA also tried to bring illegal immigrants out of the shadows, by offering amnesty and temporary resident status to anyone who had lived in the United States continuously, with proof, since before January 1, 1982. This status came with strict provisions that many unauthorized immigrants simply could not comply with due to lack of funds or documentation. Candidates for this new status were required to face a penalty of fines, repay back taxes, prove that they were not guilty of crimes, and admit guilt for being in the country illegally. The intent within the law was to enable more people to work legally in the country once they became citizens, assisting them to obtain better paying jobs and further contribute to the U.S. economy.

Although there was still a need for low-wage workers by many employers, there were no provisions in the new law for workers to come into the country legally and work but not necessarily take up permanent residency. As a result, today many unauthorized immigrants are living in the shadows and taken advantage of by illegal human traffickers as they try to enter the country. The strains upon social services by non-documented immigrants created by IRCA were felt though out the country, especially in California where in 1994 there were 1.6 million immigrants deemed to be in the U.S. illegally. 16 Proposition 187, a voter proposed ballot initiative to establish a state run citizen screening system and prohibit those here illegally from accessing social services became one of the most hotly debated issues during the 1994 election season. Republican governor Pete Wilson, a big proponent of Prop 187, estimated that the state incurred $2.3 billion in unreimbursed costs to provide federally-mandated services to unauthorized immigrants—$1.7 billion for education, $377 million for corrections, and $300 million for health care costs.6

Proposition 187 required all law enforcement and social service officials to scrutinize those suspected of illegal status and report their suspected status to state officials. This included public health facilities and schools, where children of undocumented immigrants often received basic social services. The proposition had much opposition across the nation from civil and human rights groups and politicians. President Bill Clinton urged Californians to reject the proposition, urging the state to follow U.S. federal laws to support immigration reform within the state. Heated debate led up to the November election where voters approved the proposition. Over night, activists on college campuses, in churches, and in ethnic communities in California and across the country rallied to express opposition to the proposition arguing that the bill was discriminatory against ethnic minorities. Five days later a temporary restraining order was issued to prevent Proposition 187 from being implemented. Five lawsuits were filed against the proposition in the U.S. District Court and the debate grew over the next five years. The issue divided Californians, both state and federal lawmakers, and placed the question of states providing welfare services in the center of the debate. Shortly after passage of Proposition 187, President Bill Clinton signed Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act. Aimed at reforming the federal welfare system and costs to the federal government and individual states, the new law required recipients to begin working after receiving benefits for two years, placed a lifetime cap of five years of benefits paid through federal funds, put emphasis on enforcing child support, and required state professional and occupational licenses to granted only to legal citizens. In March of 1998 the federal district court ruled that Proposition 187 was unconstitutional. 17 In June of 1999, Governor Gray Davis initiated a request for mediation to resolve the appeal of Proposition 187 which led both sides of the debate to a mediated agreement that was the court shortly after. 18

Teaching Strategies

Art Based Research

By blending note taking and qualitative research through an aesthetic process students use art making to collect data and conduct analysis. Data may consist of photos, maps, texts, original drawings, collages, and writing. Students will manipulate and transform this visual data as they explore image transfer techniques, learning how to represent and convey the information they are learning by integrating writing with the visual arts.

Classroom Timeline

Throughout this exploration students will document their growing knowledge about Bay Area Immigration/migration with a timeline that stretches around the classroom. Color-coded index cards will display events that are "national", "Bay Area", and "personal" to put into context the different events and how they relate by theme and chronology. For example students may note the public reaction on the University of California Berkeley campus following passage of Proposition 187 in 1994 as a Bay Area event and compare it with the President Clinton signing the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act 1996. By looking at the chronological proximity of these two events students will develop a deeper understanding of the debate around immigration and access to welfare services.

Gallery Walk

Students post work on tables or walls, then walk around the room observing each other's work. By examining each other's work closely, students have a foundation to discuss discoveries of new information and use of techniques with each other as they discuss their observations in a small group or as a whole class.

Graphic Organizers

This teacher scaffolded note taking structure supports students as they utilize visual representations of knowledge, concepts, and their developing ideas to organize and clarify information.


This Project Zero Thinking Routine encourages students to capture the core or heart of the matter being studied or discussed. It also can involve them in summing things up and coming to some tentative conclusions. This routine draws on the idea of newspaper-type headlines as a vehicle for summing up and capturing the essence of an event, idea, concept, topic, etc. The routine asks one core question: 1. If you were to write a headline for this topic or issue right now that captured the most important aspect that should be remembered, what would that headline be? A second question involves probing how students' ideas of what is most important and central to the topic being explored have changed over time: 2. How has your headline changed based on today's discussion? How does it differ from what you would have said yesterday?

I Used to Think… But Now I Think…

This Project Zero Thinking Routine guides students to reflect on their thinking about a topic or issue and explore how and why that thinking has changed. With a growing knowledge of immigration and migration through different circumstances, viewpoints, and time periods this Thinking Routine will not only support students in understanding their growing knowledge and the knowledge of their peers, it will allow a teacher the opportunity to assess students growth through out the unit. It can be useful in consolidating new learning as students identify their new understandings, opinions, and beliefs. By examining and explaining how and why their thinking has changed, students are developing their reasoning abilities and recognizing cause and effect relationships. Remind students of the topic you want them to consider. It could be the ideal itself—fairness, truth, understanding, or creativity—or it could be the unit you are studying. Have students write a response using each of the sentence stems: I used to think...But now, I think...

Learning Wall

Wall space within the classroom dedicated to the class and exploring ideas and concepts related to immigration laws and immigration in the Bay Area. This fluid and evolving space is for students and the teacher to post observations, questions, notes, photos, maps, sketches, and newly discovered information about the topic that is ongoing. This visual representation of student learning expands as student knowledge grows and is a focal point for whole group and individual conversations.

Mind Maps

From silent observations of places, people, and events students draw and write a visual interpretation of what they experienced. Students are encouraged to think about grouping their observations in categories that they determine. For example a trip to a public park might encourage students to look closely at the different people and activities taking place in the park. After noticing what people are doing, students create visual representations of people grouped by the activities they are engaging in (people carrying items, people pushing objects, people relaxing, etc. Following up with a discussion, conversations rooted within the mind maps allow students to share their thinking verbally and visually.

Pecha Kucha

Pecha Kucha is a slide presentation format where the presenter shares 20 slides that are timed to advance after 20 seconds. The presenter shares their work and ideas within this time frame followed by an opportunity for questions and group discussion. This format encourages both presenters to be concise when sharing their ideas and an audience to think about the whole presentation before giving input. As a teacher, this format will aid in introducing new information and connecting prior knowledge to students.

See Think Wonder

This Project Zero Thinking Routine encourages students to make careful observations and thoughtful interpretations. It helps stimulate curiosity and sets the stage for inquiry. The routine works best when a student responds by using the three stems together at the same time, i.e., "I see..., I think..., I wonder...." However, you may find that students begin by using one stem at a time, and that you need to scaffold each response with a follow up question for the next stem.

Visual Thinking Strategies

Using the three VTS questions: What's happening in this picture? What makes you say that? What more can we find? Students will draw out information from historic photos, maps, advertisements, and political cartoons. These questions take the emphasis off of a dissemination of facts and focuses on a student directed conversation that encouraging observation and inference. During VTS discussion, teachers only ask the three stated questions, leaving opportunities for quiet observation and debate among students. As a classroom routine, this practice deepens student critical thinking, vocabulary, and communication skills while exploring a subject area.


2014 The Corrupt Structures Driving The Exodus Out Of Central America, interview by Joy Olsen interviewed by Robert Siegel on All Things Considered; Washington DC: National Public Radio July 17, 2014.

"CA's Anti-Immigrant Proposition 187 is Voided, Ending State's Five-Year Battle with ACLU, Rights Groups." American Civil Liberties Union. https://www.aclu.org/immigrants-rights/cas-anti-immigrant-proposition-187-voided-ending-states-five-year-battle-aclu-righ (accessed August 14, 2014).

Chung, Sue Fawn. "Onward to Eastern Oregon." In In pursuit of gold Chinese American miners and merchants in the American West. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011. 48.

"Dillingham Commission (1907–1910)." Open Collections Program: Immigration to the US, Dillingham Commission (1907-1910). http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/immigration/dillingham.html (accessed August 10, 2014).

Emery Unified School District. "Emery Unified School District: SARC Reports." Emery Unified School District: SARC Reports. http://www.emeryusd.k12.ca.us/sarc (accessed July 13, 2014).

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Figure 1: Art Based Research from the sketchbook of a 12th grade student.


Figure 2: Art Based Research from the sketchbook of a 12th grade student.


Figure 3: Art Based Research from the sketchbook of a 12 th grade student.


Figure 4: 11 th grade student giving written peer feedback using "The Ladder of Feedback".


Figure 5: Learning Wall from 11 th & 12 th grade Art class.


Figure 6: Mind Map from the sketchbook of a 12 th grade student showing what the student observed during a sensory activity.


Figure 7: Timeline depicting visual representations of facts student are learning and feel are significant time markers for the whole class to know.

Teaching Standards

Although this unit will be delivered within a Visual Arts context, it will be at the beginning of my district's exploration with the new Common Core Standards and I am very interested in finding ways to integrate these new teaching standards into my practice. As a Studio Thinking Framework Classroom, my students are very familiar with the eight Studio Habits of Mind and incorporate them into their daily studio practice. The Studio Habits of Mind are: Develop Craft, Engage and Persist, Envision, Express, Observe, Reflect, Stretch and Explore, and Understanding the Art World. Much of what the Studio Habits of Mind bring to my classroom is a language for us to communicate about our individual and collaborative learning experiences about art and through art making. The Studio Habits of Mind are a critical part of my classroom structure, however I often struggle to integrate them with the California State Standards for Visual Arts that are very focused on artistic technique. For this unit I am integrating both California Standards for Visual Arts and Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening that integrate well into several of the Studio Habits of Mind.

California Standards for Visual Arts

Through an investigation of artists working with the theme of "immigration", students will interpret and derive meaning from artwork and identify how this work and the issues it raises connects to their own lives. 3.4 Discuss the purposes of art in selected contemporary cultures. While learning about the contemporary artist Mark Bradford, students will deepen their understanding and scope of image and immigration and the impact Jenkins' work has on the public. Students will view the Art21 feature on Bradford, interpret photographs documenting his work in public spaces, and discuss how his work draws viewers in to confront an issue. 1.3 Research and analyze the work of an artist and write about the artist's distinctive style and its contribution to the meaning of the work. Taking inspiration from Bradford's work with text and image, use their sketchbook explorations to create a large mixed media piece that reflects their ideas about immigration and how it relates to their personal journey to California. 2.6 Create a two- or three-dimensional work of art that addresses a social issue. While exploring the work of Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle students will discuss the impact his work has upon the public and how meaning may change if the piece were installed in a different location. 4.1 Articulate how personal beliefs, cultural traditions, and current social, economic, and political contexts influence the interpretation of the meaning or message in a work of art.

Common Core English Language Arts Standards: College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening

Through partner chats, group discussions, and oral presentations, students will engage in a variety of conversations to stimulate their thinking and exchange ideas. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively. By examining primary and secondary sources and conducting their own investigations to understand US immigration laws and representations of immigrants, students will expand upon their repertoire of interpretative strategies. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally. While collecting data and information about US immigration laws, students will synthesize text and share their discoveries through partner chats and group discussions. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Studio Habits of Mind

As students learn different image transformation techniques, they will learn to follow steps and use new tools. Develop craft: Learning to use and care for tools (e.g., viewfinders, brushes), materials (e.g., charcoal, paint). Learning artistic conventions (e.g., perspective, color mixing). Students will apply techniques they've learned to new and novel contexts and solve problems regarding techniques as they arise. Engage and Persist: Learning to embrace problems of relevance within the art world and/or of personal importance, to develop focus and other mental states conducive to working and persevering at art tasks. Through out this unit students will need to visualize ideas and terms related to the US immigration laws we're examining. Students will need to use their sketchbook research to experiment and plan for the culminating piece. Envision: Learning to picture mentally what cannot be directly observed and imagine possible next steps in making a piece. When working with found images students will have to develop strategies to change our manipulate meaning using the techniques they've explored. Express: Learning to create works that convey an idea, a feeling, or a personal meaning. As artist researchers, students will consume information through observation of images, video, text, and site visits. By taking in information and looking more carefully that they had before or more thoroughly than others ever will students will noticed things they have never seen before and might very well have missed had they not observed carefully. Observe: Learning to attend to visual contexts more closely than ordinary "looking" requires, and thereby to see things that otherwise might not be seen. The journey of historical investigation and art making begs for personal reflection, through "in progress" critiques, checking for understanding activities, and written reflections students will become mindful of their work process and their personal growth through it. Reflect: Question & Explain: Learning to think and talk with others about an aspect of one's work or working process. Evaluate: Learning to judge one's own work and working process and the work of others in relation to standards of the field. Inevitably the art making process lends it self to experiences of the unknown, when the art making practice leads a student to a place they had never been or never thought existed. This path of exploration often leads one to great discoveries and as a teacher it is important to leave time within the class structure for this habit to thrive and help students embrace and acknowledge these moments. Stretch and Explore: Learning to reach beyond one's capacities, to explore playfully without a preconceived plan, and to embrace the opportunity to learn from mistakes and accidents.

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