|Expedition Diaries from The Woodson Wilderness School
The Underground Railroad is a topic that fascinates fifth grade students. As the students explore this topic, there is the initial confusion of not being under the ground or a railroad. But as the investigation continues, the students begin to be aware of the heroism of the slaves who made that journey and the people who helped them. The students will benefit from this project by getting the opportunity to put themselves into the position of a runaway slave or an abolitionist by creating dialogue of a runaway slave or an abolitionist. The students will also benefit from the experience of working with Podcasting hardware and software. Usually about one half of my students do not have technology available for their use at home, so the experiences they get at school are their only chances to learn about what is available.
Each waypoint, or stop point, along our virtual Underground Railroad course will explore one event that could happen as a group of five slaves attempt to run away. The students will create a Tool Factory Web Page that simulates the look of a map in the 1800’s from North Carolina to Ohio with five waypoints, or stops, along the map trail.
• Waypoint 1: At a plantation in North Carolina and planning to escape to the North
• Waypoint 2: Stopping at a home of an abolitionist
• Waypoint 3: Traveling through the woods and hiding from the fugitive slave hunters
• Waypoint 4: Stopping at a home of a Quaker abolitionist
• Waypoint 5: Crossing the Ohio River and arriving at a safe point
At each waypoint, a group of 4-6 students will create an episode that will reflect the thoughts feelings, attitudes and ideas of a slave experiencing this journey and/or of an abolitionist who is helping the slaves with their escape. The students will use the following Tool Factory tools to help themselves recreate a virtual Underground Railroad experience. The students will:
• Use the Tool Factory Storybook Plot Planner to determine the experience that will be shared at this location.
• Use the Tool Factory Storybook Character Worksheet to develop the characters of their event, the runaway slave and/or the abolitionist.
• Use the Tool Factory Setting Worksheet to describe this waypoint location on the Underground Railroad.
• Use the Tool Factory Storybook Dialogue Worksheet to create the script for their episode.
• Open the Tool Factory Podcasting software, name the podcast, name the episode, determine the chapters needed, copy and paste the script and assign the actors, record, edit the wave track and add sounds as needed. Create the completed recording to be published at our Tool Factory Web Page.
• Create ‘artifacts’ that could be found by visitors to the virtual Underground Railroad Course at this waypoint and referred to in the podcast. The artifacts will be chosen from the Tool Factory Clip Art Station and other sources. The artifacts will be hyperlinks at each waypoint on the Tool Factory Web Page.
• Create an activity sheet that will be completed by visitors to the virtual Underground Railroad course.
Initially, I planned to incorporate this lesson into a GPS Garmin eTrex Legend C activity by plotting the Underground Railroad course on the campus of our school. The students would then use the GPS to locate each waypoint to complete the activity sheet with examining the artifacts and listening to the podcast. My students would act as docents for other visiting local fifth grade classrooms. I’ve decided to still do this part of the activity and have my students create the virtual Underground Railroad after they have participated in the simulated course. I think the experience of walking through the activity will give them a better perspective to complete the virtual activity. I also think this adds another dimension to the project by providing the students a simulated activity and the virtual activity side-by-side, so that they can compare and contrast the two types of activities.
The students will use many reading selections to help gather the needed knowledge to create scripts, artifacts, and pictures that reflect a realistic portrayal of this time period. Some of the materials that will be used are:
• Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson and James Ransom
• Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter
• Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman by Dorothy Sterling
• The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton
• Bound for the North Star: True Stories of Fugitive Slaves by Dennis Brindell Fradin
• Library of Congress, National Archives, American Memory, “Born in Slavery”, Primary source accounts; http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/snhtml/snhome.html
• Internet research
This will be the initial experience that I will do with the Podcasting grant. Future projects will be the creation of a virtual wax museum of famous historical Americans. Each student will create a likeness of a historical person which will be scanned or a digital picture will be taken. I will work with the art teacher and the technology support person at my school to help the students create the likeness of the historical person in many different ways using art medium supplies and/or technology. Then, that student will create a podcast, pretending to be that character, creating dialogue and recording a podcast of that person that explains the importance of his/her life in American history. The virtual wax museum will then be published to the Tool Factory Web Page. The students will complete a ‘wax museum’ that will have different rooms or hyperlinks that are for different periods in American History as the period of Exploration, Colonial Period, Western Expansion and more. Each room will reflect that time period in the background and have displays that will represent each historical person with his/her likeness and a background. The visitors to our virtual wax museum will push (click) on a button at that display to hear the words of that person created by my students.
I believe that Podcasting will give my students a connection to famous people and events of America’s history. Often, it is hard for fifth graders to relate to the past and make the connections. I feel that it is important that students recognize the heroes of our country’s past and tie the present to the past through the use of technology.