School assignment inspires student and travels around globe

A third-grade student’s class project this past fall has grown into a profound family experience of connecting with their roots … and one that will be shared around the world! 

“It started with our social studies unit on immigration,” said Meadow Pond Elementary teacher Connie Merritt. “One of my students, Luke Petraro, came up with the idea of interviewing his grandfather about what he knew about his father’s immigration from Craco, Italy.”

The project opened a classroom as well as kitchen table conversation on heritage, history, tradition and culture, embedding the Petraro family in the larger Italian-American community in ways they could not have imagined. "It's a wonderful example of the home-school connection," said Merritt.

Classwork is real work

As winners, the Petraro family was invited to make the recipe with Carlo, the Cake Boss, at his bakery in Hoboken. A video of the family making struffoli and reflecting on their heritage will be part of the exhibition "Basilicate: A Celebration of Lucanian Culture in the World" which will open in August 2024 in Genoa, Buenos Aires, New York and Montevideo.

They'll also be sharing struffoli and stories at John Jay Middle School's Cultural Celebration on May 22, at 5:00 pm.

“I just want to thank you for teaching this social studies unit, it is amazing how all of my children were impacted and moved by it,” Jessica Petraro wrote to Mrs. Merritt. “Thank you for making learning so exciting and memorable!”