Ten fourth and fifth grade students from Center School met at the East Hampton Public Library last week on the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War and participated in a unique program.
The program combined three things children love - competition, role playing and computers. Children’s Services Librarian Kathleen Sands started the program by asking the students some questions about the Civil War and the Underground Railroad, and the code words used by Underground Railroad travelers. Most of the students immediately connected the Civil War with “freeing the slaves.”
One student, Ben, said, “The Civil War was also about cotton. My teacher, Mr. Bain, told us about it. He’s into that kind of stuff.”
Before the treasure hunt for information the students needed in their roles as runaway slaves trying to get to Canada, Sands had one student, Noah, read the introduction to the day’s activity.
“You are part of a slave family that was separated at a slave auction. One part of the family did not get sold and stayed in Maryland. The other three parts of the family were scattered between West Viriginia, North Carolina and Arkansas. Because you are very upset and worried that you might never see your family again, you promise to all run away and meet in Toronto, Canada. Each of you will travel the Underground Railroad to get to freedom.“
Broken up into four teams, the students had to answer questions pertaining to the particular location on the Underground Railroad where they were. When a team gave a correct answer, they received the next question. Each team was working on a different route to Canada. Some of the facts they had to garner in their research was the year the war between the states started, the name of a large lake in northwest Vermont, the river Norfolk, Va., lies at the mouth of, the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the capital of Rhode island and where the African Meeting House is in Boston.
It was an awesome sight to see these youngsters go racing to find a book or excitedly start striking the computer keyboard looking for clues and then coming back all smiles with the correct answer. It is an inspiring method of teaching.