Sharing the Dream Schools in the News

image Stetser article

Stetser kids bring history to life in Emancipation celebration

Desire Grover | Chester Spirit, Chester, PA

Students at Chester’s Stetser Elementary School, last Wednesday, took their families and friends back in time to the Civil War-era as they hosted an Emancipation Proclamation celebration to commemorate the 150th anniversary of that historic document dressed in period costumes and acting like wax museum figures.

“The meat of tonight is going to be the research they’ve done. (Students are) dressed in character so people will go around, press a button and then the students will come to life,” explained Janet Baldwin, Stetser’s principal.

Fifth graders presented their research about the 1863 document, slavery and the Civil War with brief skits, poetry and the “wax museum,” dressed as various historic characters from that era. Community participants toured the gym and could go up to each student in character and push a button next to the historic figure. Once pushed, the student would “come to life” to tell their historic figure’s story as if they were the character themselves.

“My given name is Isabella Baumfree. I was born into slavery in 1797. I was sold at an auction. All together, I was sold four times. I am Sojourner Truth,” said Mia Grobes, a fifth grader who had done an impressive job of memorizing her character’s full profile, word-for-word. “I like that she had the courage to stand up for herself and go to court and win that case to get her freedom,” continued Grobes.

A $5,000 grant from the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) funded the project. The Exploring our Global Community grant will also allow fifth grade students to share what they have learned about the Civil War over the internet with students in South Africa via Skype, who will, in turn, share about their own investigation into Apartheid.

The unifying theme of this collaboration is called Quest for Freedom and students will benefit by learning about another country’s history, as well as their own.

“We’re going to connect with students in South Africa and the children there will research Apartheid and share with us what they have learned,” said Baldwin. “This is an exciting learning opportunity for our students and we look forward to having the chance to share what they accomplish with you.”

Stetser was one of only 25 schools selected for this grant. Tyra Quail, a retired reading teacher, was hired to help teachers fully integrate the use of the internet and webcam into the school lessons.

“When I went into the classes, we realized that students needed strength in research,” said Quail. “We started by researching a Black inventor who had created something for the common good of all. Then we started talking about slavery. The children had so many questions and they really got involved.”

Quail said children were greatly intrigued by the Underground Railroad so they studied even further at the students’ request.

“Because my mother is a quilter I knew about the Underground quilts,” said Quail, “So I started to teach them all of the signals slaves used when they hung quilts out in the field. The students made their own quilt.”

Chester Spirit, Chester, PA. Published: March 6, 2013. Used with permission.

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Sharing the Dream

Grants for pre-K-8 school projects that create global classrooms where children—and families—can safely connect, exchange ideas and learn together.

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