Song and dance about geography

30th January 2004 at 00:00
To illustrate push and pull factors in migration at GCSE I use the song "America" from the musical West Side Story. In it, Puerto Rican immigrants in New York voice arguments for and against staying in America. So it starts:

"Puerto Rico You lovely island Island of tropical breezes Always the pineapples growing Always the coffee blossoms blowing." And continues:

"You ugly island Always the hurricanes blowing Always the population growing And the money owing And the babies crying And the bullets flying."

The song includes many more arguments for and against life in Puerto Rico and the US. During a previous lesson, the pupils discuss what push and pull factors are and how they affect someone's decision on migration. I then play the song to them (I don't show the film as it distracts from the words), asking them to listen to what the people of Puerto Rico are saying about the US. Next I give them an A3 worksheet that has the words of the song, a map showing America and the Caribbean and two columns - one headed "Push" (things they do not like in Puerto Rico), the other "Pull" (things they like in the US). I play the song again and I get them to use contrasting colours to highlight the factors. They love learning the song and usually want it to be repeated.

Mike Conlon, head of year, St Wilfrid's High School, Sefton, Merseyside

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