In the spring 2017, fourth graders embarked on in-depth project work, spanning two months of study, examining slavery and the Underground Railroad. Students began their project by reflecting on what they already knew about these topics and what they hoped to learn. Children read informational texts, took notes, and shared findings through small and whole class group discussions. They conducted field work by taking several trips and hosting experts on campus who could support their research. These experiences encompassed everything from visiting the National Freedom Center to listening to guest experts. Yvonne Giles, a local expert and historian on the Underground Railroad, and La’Shell Williams, who taught children about spirituals and the importance of music during that time, visited the fourth grade classroom. Students learned from local historical markers downtown as well. Depending upon their research questions, some students visited the Upper School to seek out teacher experts for some of their personal choice projects. Students were immersed in their learning and used many picture books for fact gathering, as well as websites in computer class. Children followed slaves and their paths to freedom as part of an online interactive activity which allowed them to choose their own path to freedom. In art, students created charcoal portraits based on the theme, "Faces of Freedom," along with an enormous mural of the Underground Railroad through the seasons.
As a culminating activity to the project on slavery and the Underground Railroad, the fourth-graders opened up their very own interactive museum. Art, science, computer, music, and library were all integrated into this area of study. The museum opened with a ribbon cutting ceremony, and museum visitors, including all Lower School students, parents and students from the Middle and Upper Schools, explored the museum with iPads and cell phones which narrated the displays. Student pride was high as the museum was entirely student created, including the display and set up!