Patrick Henry Elementary School: Isela Luna & Ayako Kato, Grade 4

History is Residing in Your Body


“Dear Room 102, 

We are finally going to finish the book, The Distance Between Us, for writing. We have already learned so much about immigration and the history. People migrate from many different places and for many different reasons. As we continue reading the book, I want you to think about the history of your own family. You will be writing and creating a project about your own family history.

Who is an immigrant?

Excited to know move about all the different cultural backgrounds. My African American friend and I agreed that except Indigenous (Native American) and African American, people who were taken away from their original countries in Africa, all others have immigrated to this land and those people are immigrants who originally moved from other countries.

Capitalism made the strange sense of hierarchy among humanity. “Richness” shouldn’t only be based on how much money people make. In other words, although it is important for us to be able to live safe and healthy, material possessions don’t directly make on happy. There are a lot of other forms of richness. What are they?”

—Henry Elementary 4th grade Teacher Isela Luna, and Teaching Artist Ayako Kato


HOW TO DANCE CUMBIA: ft. Tiburcio – Found during student research

Just Being Garifuna -Punta Tutorial – Found during student research

“Ayako was planning to join the classroom from mid-March. Since COVID-19 happened, she ended up not meeting with students face to face, but was able to conduct remote classes. Luckily, she got an idea to create a dance video with the students.”

— Isela Luna, 4th grade teacher, Patrick Henry Elementary School

Teaching Artist Ayako Kato’s biographical performance

Ayako explained the terms of dance and how to create a history dance based on students’ interviewing their parents. She shared her photos and artifacts which she used to stimulate her to make movements. Ayako shared her own biographical dance link for the students to watch as an example.


Isela had been teaching about immigration and students created their own visual presentation as their identity work. They then started to read “Distance Between Us” by Reyna Grande, a memoir about a girl, Reyna, who was born and, along with her 10 siblings, abandoned by her parents in Mexico. Eventually, she immigrates to the US, El Otro Lado (the other side), to follow her father in pursuit of the American dream.

We prepared 15 inquiry questions for students to answer by interviewing their own parents to find out where their parents/ancestors are from.  

1. Where were your parents born?



2. When did your ancestors/parents/relatives first come to the United States? (For example: It could have been you and your parents, your grandparents, or your great great grandparents and so on.)

3. Where did your ancestors/relatives come from? What country or countries are they from?

4. If you or your ancestors came from another country, what were the reasons why they decided to leave your native country?

5. Why did your family move to Chicago?

6. What traditions do you celebrate with your family?

7. What have been some of the most beautiful experiences that you and your family have had in the United States?

8. What have been some of the most difficult experiences that you and your family have had in the United States?

9. What are you and your parents’ dreams?

10. What do your parents hope for your future?

11. Have you ever been to where your parents/ancestors are originally from? If you have, what was that experience like? If you have not, then would you like to visit one day? Why or why not?

12. Do you know a lot about your ancestors and where they are from? If so, what is one of the best memories of your parents/ancestors in their original country?

13. What do you like most about the country or countries your parents/ancestors are from?

14. What are your parents/ancestors favorite music or songs? Please write down the name of the artist and song because we will need this for our project. If possible, please find a Youtube link and copy it here if you can.

15. Do you, your family, or your ancestors have any special dances or enjoy/like any particular kind of dance? (For example, many of my family members dance folklórico and many other dances like cumbia as well.)

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“Music moves the body through vibration of air!”

— Patrick Henry 4th grade student

By reflecting on the students’ answers to the questions, how the family history, cultural heritage, and family values are passed down or start to disappear over generations became visible. I wish I could meet with them in person to take more time to discuss how they could express their own heritage through dance.