Posted by: daynamcdowell | June 22, 2010

Day 9-Slavery and Primary Sources

Fraunces Tavern-where George Washington resigned as commander of the Continental Army

Friday, June 11, 2010—Day 9        

     Our last day in New York City was a day to learn about colonial American history at the New York Historical Society.  Inside the building were displays of colonial furniture, sculptures, portraits, weaponry, and Indian art.  One activity that Mia, the presenter asked us to do was to choose one exhibit and analyze it.  As a presenter should, Mia walked us through the archives section and demonstrated to us what she expected from us.  She shared with us a colonial toilet that is often mistaken for a fancy chair, a painting of King George III’s statue being torn down by colonials, and a sculpture of a soldier. 

     Our objective was to ask questions while analyzing an item to discover the historical event.  This is an excellent activity for middle school students.  Teaching them to successfully ask analytical questions of primary sources is a huge job.  Having students successfully piece together the historical event while analyzing a primary source without teacher help is always an added bonus.  A second activity in which Mia engaged us was an analysis of written primary sources to discover a chain of events that combined into a larger historical event focusing upon a runaway slave and his bid for freedom through the courts.  This activity is definitely one that can be used in the classroom in the same format.   Mia surprised us with a large binder filled with primary source documents that will provide us with many teaching tools when addressing slavery in America.  Yes, another freebie!

the Museum of Natural History

      After our visit at the NY Historical Society, Matt and Jonathan sent us to the Museum of Natural History on our own.  What a huge museum filled with artifacts from all regions of the world.  This is the place to be if you teach World History!  Items from China, Asia, Mesoamerica, and South America impressed me most of all.  Even the miniature exhibits of ancient cities of the world stirred the mind.  Of course, several items like the monolithic stone mask, the colossal dinosaur bones, and the elephants reminded me of the movie, “A Night at the Museum”. 

a monolithic mask

entering the museum

      Near the Africa section was a small exhibit that taught me something new about African slavery.  The display compared African slavery in North America and South America.  In addition to chains, African baskets, and a cargo list of slaves was information concerning the treatment of slaves on both continents.   For example, slaves in North America were separated from family members whereas a strong family unit was encouraged in South America.  This aspect of African slavery would be interesting to students.  Designing some kind of mini-research project and a compare-contrast activity would help students to see the similarities and differences of slavery on the two continents.  This activity would help them to analyze why slavery was approached differently.

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