In our continuing “Democracy in Action” study of race relations in America, our stellar 8th grade class just wrapped up an immersive project about the Abolitionist Movement. I’m proud of their serious–and fun!–approach to this project.
The assignment first involved researching historical power players in the 19th century struggle to end slavery. Students then created class presentations addressing the various methods of activism (e.g., writing books, giving speeches, educating the public, working within the system, tearing down the system, being a conductor on the Underground Railroad, leading armed rebellions, etc.). Significantly, the kids were challenged to try to dig into the psychology and motivation of major historical figures like Sojourner Truth, Harriett Tubman, and Frederick Douglass. The students also had to work hard to make connections in effort to understand how backgrounds and life-changing experiences shape personality and actions. During their presentations and impromptu role play debates, the kids aimed to embody the distinctive characters of our nation’s preeminent freedom fighters. In this way, the kids gained insight into what it truly means to stand up for your beliefs against all odds and make a difference in the world.