Libby Sinclair teaches fourth- and fifth-grade social studies at Alternative Elementary School 2 (AE2) in Seattle, Washington. When the school was started in the early '70s, it was designed to offer a more project-based, hands-on learning alternative within the public school system. Located in a suburb northeast of Seattle, AE2 is home to a diverse student body, and parents are asked to be active partners in their children's learning process by regularly volunteering in the classroom.
Ms. Sinclair began the year with a unit on the origins of slavery in Africa and America. The class then went on to study various effects of slavery, emancipation of the slaves, Reconstruction, The Great Migration, Jim Crow laws, and voting rights. Through readings, discussion, research, and activities, the class explored the evolution of African American citizenship. In one activity, students took literacy tests like those given to African Americans at voting booths in the past.
Because baseball was spread in part by Civil War soldiers, Ms. Sinclair used the popular American pastime to examine what a stereotype is, to track the parallel spread of racial stereotypes in baseball and in society, and to study the often-forgotten history of the Negro leagues. Students interviewed grandparents or older family members about wartime stereotypes, conducted research and wrote reports on the Negro leagues, and made T-shirts to raise money for the Negro Leagues Museum. The lesson concluded by having students write letters to an author whose black history book didn't include any information about the Negro leagues.
After the lesson on stereotypes and the Negro leagues, the class moved on to a unit called Five Themes of Geography. The five themes were location, place, movement, human-environment interaction, and region. Ms. Sinclair connected themes in baseball, African American citizenship, and geography by locating on a map the birthplace of baseball and certain baseball players, tracking migration and western expansion, and making a timeline that identified important inventions and political ideas in different regions.
Lesson Background >>