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Student Projects

I AM San Diego

Authors: Paul North, Marilen Tran, Ratha Kelly

Grade: 3rd

Subject: Language Arts

Dancer in purple dress
I Am San Diego - Papers

What is the story of San Diego? How did it become the diverse community that it is today? Through this project, students researched how their families arrived in San Diego and connect it with the trends that brought different groups to the city. What were the driving forces that brought them to San Diego? What were the influences that made them stay? Where did their family settle within the county of San Diego and why? Students will look at their family’s arrival against the backdrop of San Diego history. Students explored how different ethnic communities (Kumeyaay, Spaniards, Mexican Americans, Filipino Americans, Japanese Americans and African Americans) arrived in San Diego and what forces brought them here or made them leave. Throughout the project, students read nonfiction texts about different community groups and their history in San Diego. The students focused on nonfiction reading skills in order to learn the information about the different communities. In conjunction with the nonfiction articles, students engaged in read alouds of texts that were centered around different community groups. Students had many different takeaways from the project, but the main takeaway was that San Diego is a diverse community with people of all different cultures and backgrounds.

Who are the people of San Diego?

What makes San Diego a place where people want to live?

Why have people moved to San Diego?

The main learning goal of this project was to showcase the diverse communities of San Diego. The goal shifted as we continued to work on this project as what stuck out to the students were how communities struggled, and how they fought for their rights. Some of the main student takeaways included:

“I learned that San Diego has so many different types of people. There aren’t just Americans like you and me (to his parents), but there are Filipinos, Mexicans, Japanese, all sorts of people who live in San Diego.”

“What I really like most about this project is that we’re learning all about how people fought for their rights.”

We wanted to make sure that our students not only learned about the different communities, but also of the stories of segregation, and the resiliency of these communities to come to live in a place like San Diego and continue to thrive in San Diego.

  • San Diego History Center: Students visited the San Diego History Center and learned about the History of San Diego, San Diego Changemakers, as well as the 1915 Pamana-California Exposition. Students also received a visit from the San Diego History Center where they analyzed primary and secondary sources about four different communities in San Diego: Kumeyaay, Italian, Filipino, Japanese
  • Old Town San Diego: Students received a guided tour from docents at Old Town, learning about the early beginnings of San Diego and the influences from the Mexican, Spanish and Kumeyaay in the settling of San Diego. Students also got to experience “hands on activities” of what life was like in Old Town
  • Ana Rodriguez, Kumeyaay Nation: Students learned about the history and culture of the Kumeyaay Nation of San Diego
  • Christian Ramirez, Human Rights Director: Students learned about Chicano History in San Diego as well as the History of Chicano Park
  • Samahan, Filipino Dance Company: Students learned about the Filipino culture and community through their dances
  • Melanie Garcia, FilAm Organization: Students learned about the history of Filipinos and the Filipino Community in San Diego Today
  • Johnson and Mrs. Parker: Students learned about the African-American Community in San Diego, and about their experiences with segregation in San Diego and in other parts of the country.

Books & Videos

  • Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh (focus on Chicano Movement)
  • Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore (focus on Filipino Community)
  • 28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World by Charles R. Smith (focus on African American Community)
  • Home of the Brave by Allen Say (focus on Japanese Internment)
  • Let’s Talk About Race! by Julius Lester
  • Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull
  • We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song by Debbie Levy
  • Chicano Park Documentary: focus on the Chicano Movement and the development of Chicano Park
  • The First People- Kumeyaay video: focus on the history and culture of the Kumeyaay
  • George Takei talks Japanese American Incarceration video produced by AJ+
  • Japanese Americans Look back on WWII Incarceration video produced by AJ+

Ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of a text, referring explicitly to the text as the basis for the answers.

Determine the main idea of a text; recount the key details and explain how they support the main idea.

Describe the relationship between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text, using language that pertains to time, sequence, and cause/effect.

By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grades 2-3 text complexity band independently and proficiently.


Weeks Project Focus
1-2 Project Launch!

–       Our Families and Our Communities

–       Students researched their family trees and family histories, sharing their stories with their classmates.

–       Students did a scavenger hunt of the staff members of where they were born and when they moved to San Diego to show that our community is made up of people from many different places.

–       Students brought food from their culture to share with students. Students went around and sampled different foods and learned how the food was connected to their culture.

2-3 Who were the first people of San Diego? What happened to them?

–       Students explored who the first people of San Diego were, and learned about their culture and history.

–       Students watched a video about the history of the Kumeyaay nation and received a visit from an expert from the Kumeyaay Nation

–       Students learned about what happened to the Kumeyaay upon the arrival of the Spanish and Mexicans

4-5 Who are the Mexicans? What is El Movimiento?

–       Students learned about what happened to the land after the Spanish-Mexican War

–       Key Learning Goal:Mexican-American Community continues to thrive today in California and different parts of the US. Mexicans chose to stay in the United States after the War and created a community that includes many different aspects of their culture and heritage.

–       Students learned about the heritage of San Diego in Old Town and the Mexican influences in the early developments of San Diego

–       Students learned about El Movimiento and how the word “chicano” was derived and used. Students explored the injustices that faced the Chicano community and how they fought back through activism.

6-8 Who are the Filipinos, African Americans, Japanese Americans, etc. in San Diego?

–       Students learned about the influences that brought different groups of people to San Diego in the mid 19th- 20th century.

–       Students explored the different factors that also might have driven these communities out of San Diego, as well as the different laws that segregated these communities.                                                                                                         

9-10 Product Finalization

–       Throughout the Project, students learned descriptive language and different forms of Poetry. Students learned how to “show not tell” and add adjectives and adverbs to their lines.

–       Students drafted and published an “I AM” poem that focused on who they are as a person, their family influences as well as their culture.                                  

11 Exhibition

–       Students exhibited their work in three different rooms.

–       Process Room– guests were guided through the different parts of their learning: Project Launch, Articles, Field Experiences, Experts, Read alouds, Videos, etc.

–       Poetry Room– students recorded their I AM Poems and had a printout of their poem around the room. Guests were guided through the process of their poetry writing and could sit and listen to the different student poems.

–       Museum Room– students created museum panels that highlighted the important contributions of each community to San Diego, what brought them to San Diego, and what is influential about the community to San Diego today. We highlighted 6 communities: Kumeyaay, Spanish, Mexican, African-American, Filipino and Japanese