Curriculum

Teaching & Learning

April 28, 2004 3 min read
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Teaching Tools Plentiful Online

Brown at Fifty

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s May 17, 1954, decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka striking down segregated public schools, many organizations have prepared activities and resources for educators. Following are some of the tools that can be found online to teach students about the landmark case.

Examining Desegregation:Teaching Tolerance, a magazine and Web site published by the Montgomery, Ala.-based Southern Poverty Law Center, has put together classroom resources including a timeline of important events related to integration, activities for students, and questions teachers can use to spark discussion. The resources available at www.tolerance.org/teach include:

  • An assignment in which students are asked to research their school district’s history to find out when it became desegregated and whether its schools are now becoming resegregated;
  • An activity that asks students to brainstorm a list of benefits that come with having integrated schools;
  • Interviews with prominent Americans—including U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige and CBS News anchorman Dan Rather—about their experiences with the case; and

A snapshot of state policies regarding segregation in 1954.

  • A snapshot of state policies regarding segregation in 1954.

The organization also recommends the documentary “With All Deliberate Speed: The Legacy of Brown v. Board,” available for $24.95 from www.brownvboard.info. The film addresses topics related to the case, such as the role of race in schools and the relevance of affirmative action today.

Junior Rangers: Students can become “junior rangers” of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site by completing five of seven activities in a booklet provided by the National Park Service at www.nps.gov/brvb/. When students are finished with their activities, they can mail their books to the official historic site in Topeka, Kan. The parks department will then mail the students “junior ranger” badges. More information on the program can be found at www.nps.gov/brvb/pphtml/fork ids.html.

Elementary Activities: The Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence, and Research, based in Topeka, has posted an activity book about the case that can be printed out from its Web site, www.brownvboard.org/actvty bk/cover.htm. Designed for younger children, the booklet includes mazes, a word search, and a brief overview of the significance of the ruling.

Legal Lessons: The Supreme Court Historical Society and Street Law, a law education group based in Silver Spring, Md., jointly host the “Landmark Supreme Court Cases” Web site at www.landmarkcases.org.

Teachers can download the complete Brown case in .pdf format from the Web site. Lessons featured on the site include background summaries and questions on the Brown ruling and the 14th Amendment for students in grades 4-5, 6-8, and 9-12.

Other activities on the site include:

  • “Does Treating People Equally Mean Treating Them the Same?” Students are asked to think about several different situations, such as a man and a woman applying for the same job, and determine what it means to be treated equally.
  • “Classifying Arguments for Each Side of the Case.” Students are given a list of arguments presented in the Brown case and asked to decide if they support segregation, desegregation, or both.
  • “Immediate Reaction to the Decision: Comparing Regional Media Coverage.” Students are asked to examine excerpts from editorials published in seven newspapers on May 18, 1954, and determine which side of the case the authors supported.
  • “Political Cartoon Analysis.” Given four political cartoons that were published shortly after the historic ruling, students are asked to scrutinize the symbolic meanings behind the illustrations and determine the artists’ viewpoints.

In Her Shoes: Teachers can download a lesson for K-6 students called “A Famous Kansas Child” at www.abanet.org/publiced/lawday/schools/lessons/k6kansas.html.

The workbook about Linda Brown, the Kansas student whose father was the lead plaintiff in the Brown lawsuit, is provided by the American Bar Association. Divided into four chapters, it includes vocabulary words and discussion questions.

A handout designed for pupils in grades K-3 is available at www.abanet.org/publiced/lawday/schools/lessons/handout_fair.html . It asks the students to analyze what is fair and unfair in five situations that children can relate to, such as: “Girls are not allowed to join the Boys Club. Boys can’t join the Brownies.”

—Michelle Galley

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