Freeport Middle School works hard to have the students engaged in rigorous, hands-on learning opportunities in all subject areas, and in many cases, creating projects integrating multiple subject areas.

Every year the teachers improve their existing projects and also create new learning opportunities for the students. This year, Shawn Favreau, eighth-grade social studies, Janice Murphy, eighth-grade language arts and Jill Hooper, librarian, worked together to improve upon a civil rights interdisciplinary unit called “A Century of Struggle for Equality in America 1865-1965.”

Based on the essential learning outcomes they expected every child to have, Favreau and Murphy created scoring rubrics to clearly articulate what the students need to do and know to meet or exceed the essential learning targets. Once the teachers knew what they wanted the students to learn, they then developed five different choices for students to present evidence of their learning to the teachers and other students. Students could pick from a student-created poster board, informational dodecahedron (a solid figure having 12 faces), storyboard, podcast or video. Students were given a list of approximately 100 civil rights events, court cases, groups or people to pick from.

The unit started with the students in language arts classes reading fiction and non-fiction books to develop a foundation of understanding of the struggle for equality for African-Americans in the United States. In social studies classes, students dove into the topic through small group discussion, investigation of primary sources, and analyzing political cartoons of the time for bias and prejudice. Students then moved into researching and creating a representation of their knowledge.

Using the wide variety of resources available in the library, social studies classes spent time researching further and digging deeper into the students’ topics. Each student worked to complete a single piece of what would become a timeline, working with either Favreau or Murphy, to the craft a visual representation of their topic.

Eighth-grade students concluded their study of the America’s civil rights era by assembling in the library their timeline of events from the end of the Civil War through the 1960s. Students then learned from each other about the civil rights movement in the United States by immersing themselves within the timeline, speaking with each other about interesting facts and reflecting on what they had learned. Freeport Middle School students from all grade levels and a variety of classes visited the display. Sixth-grade students were impressed with, and inspired by, the quality and breadth of the work, and spoke of which part of the timeline they hope to investigate once they are in eighth grade.

“I really liked the unit because I got to pick my own topic and how I presented it. When you get to pick something you are interested in, it is better,” student Gardi Converse said regarding why he really liked the project. He also noted how he was given freedom on how and what to research, and then how he was going to present it back.

“All the freedom we had really made me more interested in the project,” said Converse.

Thanks to a strong collaborative community environment between the middle school and the Freeport Community Library, a portion of the timeline will be on display in the children’s room at the public library for part of the upcoming Black History Month in February.

Jill Hooper is the Freeport Middle School librarian.

Freeport Middle School students presenting their civil rights project are, from left, Siham Mohamed, Gardi Converse and Ian Capen.


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