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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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5. Masculine Heroes   

13. Southern Renaissance

•  Unit Overview
•  Using the Video
•  Authors
•  Timeline
•  Activities
- Overview Questions
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- Creative Response
- PBL Projects

Activities: Problem-Based Learning Projects

"How can I get my students to think?" is a question asked by many faculty, regardless of their disciplines. Problem-based learning (PBL) is an instructional method that challenges students to "learn to learn," working cooperatively in groups to seek solutions to real world problems. These problems are used to engage students' curiosity and initiate learning the subject matter. PBL prepares students to think critically and analytically, and to find and use appropriate learning resources." -- Barbara Duch, University of Delaware

  1. Imagine you have been asked to help create a museum exhibit comparing the Old South to the New South. Working with one other student, search the archive and read the literature in this unit for images and descriptions of the various ideas of the South in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Choose ten to twelve items (images as well as short selections from written works) that depict the Old South and ten to twelve items that depict the New South; then write a "guide" to your collection that explains the role of each item in this exhibit.

  2. The year is 1932. Imagine that you and several of your classmates live in Springcreek, a small southern town where the economy has been ravaged by the Great Depression and several years of poor cotton crops. You recently heard about a man who wants to build a rubber factory somewhere in your area. The factory will employ a hundred workers and attract many other businesses to the community in which it is built (including a movie theater and a department store). Some people in your town would love to have the factory in Springcreek. But because your town is so isolated, the rubber factory owner won't consider locating his business there unless he can be assured that the roads between Springcreek and the nearest city are good enough to ensure he'll be able to get needed supplies and ship his rubber goods to his customers. Lucky for you, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) has just offered to help build a highway between Springcreek and the city. There's just one problem: many Springcreek residents are opposed to the idea because they fear a highway, a factory, a movie theater, a department store, and other new businesses will threaten their traditional way of life. Working in a group, stage the town council meeting at which the residents of Springcreek debate the merits of allowing the rubber factory to be built in their town. Your meeting should include people who support the plan as well as people who oppose it, and both sides should have well-reasoned arguments to support their position. Appoint one person as mayor to listen to the debate and make a final decision on the matter.

  3. One of the fundamental events that helped shape the Southern Renaissance was the Scopes "Monkey" trial, officially known as The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes. The trial pitted Scopes, a substitute science teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, against the Butler Act, Tennessee's statute that made it illegal to teach evolution in the state's public schools. Working with a group of your peers, research the background leading up to the trial, as well as the trial itself. Once you're familiar with the trial, work together to script a short, one-act play dramatizing the events of the trial, making sure there are enough roles for each of you so that you'll be able to "stage" a short re-enactment of the trial for your class. After your performance, invite your classmates to discuss how and why this trial was so important to the development of southern writing in the late 1920s and 1930s.

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