In a class taught by Newest Americans co-founders Tim Raphael and Julie Winokur, undergraduates from Rutgers-Newark’s honors college conducted research on the Ferry Street corridor in Newark’s Ironbound neighborhood. Ferry Street is the primary economic and cultural artery in Ironbound. After exploring the history of the neighborhood, an historical port of entry for newcomers to Newark, students were asked to focus their research on a single building along Ferry Street. Working individually and in pairs, students conducted archival research and interviews. They then represented their research in the form of photography, audio stories, and short written narratives.
The students in the class were primarily majors in the sciences, business and criminal justice. All but one had no previous experience with the type of research they were asked to conduct or the digital storytelling tools they used to share that research. In addition to learning new research methods and employing unfamiliar storytelling tools, students developed an appreciation for the immigrant history of the neighborhood revealed through their research. Since most of the students were themselves first or second generation immigrants this history was also personally relevant to them. In addition, the class exemplified the ways Newest Americans uses multimedia, project based, civically engaged curriculum as a form of research and development for project storytelling. Research conducted by students in the class led to a graduate student studio taught by Newest Americans project manager for urban landscape research Dr. Sahar Hosseini. The studio in turn initiated the multiyear investigation of buildings and restaurants along Ferry Street that resulted in the Newest Americans Ironbound Foodscapes project.