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Students Learn About Segregation

Students display their works on the unit about segregation.

In an effort to educate students about Black History Month, several fourth grade classes conducted cross-curricular studies to learn about influential African Americans, recognize the impact they had to make changes in history and gain an awareness of how it may have felt to live during the times of the Civil Rights Movement. Different classes recreated a segregated time in varying ways that best met the needs of their students.

In Mrs. Sarcona’s classroom, students were “grouped” according to a fictitious food allergy. This was chosen as allergies can at times make students feel they are part of a separate group due to their allergy. Students were seated with the members of their group, communicated only with those in their group and spent partner work time and recess time with those same members. Students were discouraged from eating foods that they were now allergic to.

The segregated environment was a challenge for my “sugar” allergy group. They needed to skip the sweets at lunch. The other group that struggled the most was the “milk” group. They did not like having the choice to have milk and cheese products during lunch. The students organized a peaceful protest and held up signs in the cafeteria requesting equal rights. They requested that Mrs. Sarcona hear their requests and grant them equal rights. The students wanted to be able to eat what they wanted to eat, sit with whom they wished to sit with and talk with any classmate they wanted to talk to. After the students were encouraged to return to class, a group discussion took place.

Throughout the group discussion all students recognized how they felt being a part of a group that was separate from other groups. They noticed that some groups seemed to be privileged while others seemed to be treated unfairly. Many students were able to identify the variety of feelings and emotions they felt throughout the day including anger, frustration, empathy and finally a sense of understanding.

This “simulated segregated” environment provided a safe place where students were able to study the negative effects of segregation and relate to segregation as it applies to the real world. Students realized that groups do exist, but as one of Mrs. Sarcona’s students said, “it is important to remember we are all the same”. Many students were excited about making friends with students they spent the segregated day with. The branching out and creation of new friendships truly demonstrated how we learned that we could gain so much by inviting others to be a part of our world. Similar activities were conducted across the fourth grade using different criteria to identify the groups that were segregated.

Written by: Kenneth Hoover
Posted: Mar 03, 2010 by Kenneth Hoover

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