History class can mean a lot of reading and memorizing, but for at least one day, ninth graders at Grand Island Senior High got to learn by doing.
Teachers transformed a classroom into Ellis Island, allowing students to experience what it was like for immigrants coming to the United States in the early 20th century.
"A lot of kids, this is very relative and right up their alley because a lot of them have become immigrants here the last few years, so it's a very important part of our curriculum," says history teacher Jim Jeffries.
Students role-played immigrants from various backgrounds, and had to go through mock medical and legal inspections.
"My experience? I didn't know what was going on. I walked in and they kept doing these hand gestures and speaking in a foreign language," says freshman Marcus Gonifas.
In order to create the experience of immigrants who came to America without any knowledge of English. Those playing the medical inspectors spoke to students in either Spanish or German.
Students were then either allowed to enter America or sent to medical quarantine or legal detention.
"I felt confused and a bit intimidated," says Gonifas.
About 600 9th graders went through the Ellis Island experience Wednesday. The interactive activity kicks off the immigration unit in freshmen history classes, and students say the experience casts a different light on their upcoming lessons.
"It probably helps a lot because you know what they were going through, you can easily relate," Gonifas says.
It's a lesson the teachers hope their students remember forever.