Despite being founded on the lofty Enlightenment principles of natural rights, individual freedoms, and equality, our country made sure to exclude as many groups as possible from the material manefestation of these ideals. African Americans, women, Native Americans, and the poor were examples of such groups. Consequently, collective struggle was necessary in order to force necessary concessions from the exclusionary grip of elite power. As Frederick Douglas famously said, "Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will." No one learned this more directly or memorably than African Americans and women.
Using student-centered Performance Based Assessment Tasks, students explore one of the many social justice movements in which African Americans and women demanded a share of power in the U.S. By the end of the year, they will have written a comprehensive research paper describing the movement's effectiveness and impact on American society.
The Fall semester involves a series of in-depth mini-projects on: class upheavals in the wake of the American Revolution (for example, Shay's Rebellion, Whiskey Rebellion); the Reform movements of the 1830s-50s (Temperance, Education Reform, Abolitionism); the Women's Suffrage Movement (1848-1920); and the Civil Rights Movement (1950s-70s).
Spring semester consists of research and writing of the research paper. Students learn the many skills required for research, clear and persuasive writing, and oral presentations.
Choose a single state, complete research on its geography and history and make connections to current politics and economy, culminating in a museum exhibit.
Uncle Tom's Cabin: reading and writing assignments, including reflections, journal entries, Venn Diagrams, Character logs, and visual characterizations, performed individually and in small group activities.
Essay on the effectiveness of one aspect of nonviolent protest used during the Civil Rights movement. (Eg, sit-ins, freedom rides, boycotts, and multi-ethnic marches.)
Presentations regarding one aspect of 1850s U.S. culture. Students must read and critique primary documents, such as Ladies Home Journal, and explain to the class the significance of such cultural norms as the antebellum "women's sphere."
Articles of Confederation vs. U.S. Constitution: Experiential activity demonstrating the futility of one-state, one-vote.
Presentation on antebellum societal and cultural trends, for instance "women's sphere", "Biblically-based pro-slavery arguments", "abolition", and the Fugitive Slave Act.
Culminating PBAT, as described above, including a 10-minute PowerPoint presentation on a major line of inquiry pertaining to social justice movements in the U.S.
Major research project. See above.