Thursday, April 13, 2017

Underground Railroad Simulation

This was the second time I've used this simulation. It's one I picked up from Interact Simulations and I love it. Even though it is geared toward 5th grade and up, I was able to easily do this with my third and fourth graders without changing anything.

Students were divided up into groups to become experts. They then had to learn about a certain topic and prepare a presentation to teach the rest of the class what they had learned. The topics we covered were: Secrets and Dangers of the Underground Railroad, Stories of Escape, Routes of the Underground Railroad, and one about Friends and Agents on the Underground Railroad. 

After presentations were over, I assigned roles for our simulation. Some students were slaves, some were conductors, some were bounty hunters, and some were patrol officers. We had safe houses throughout the school. Students had just a few rules. The most important were that they could not talk, unless they were the conductors, who could whisper, and students could not run until they were ready to run across the field and go to the fence at the back of our property which simulated reaching Canada. 

The salves had to follow the conductor, who had a map of the school. Their job was to collect 3 different colored tickets from 3 safe houses. Once they did that, they could run for Canada. 

The conductors used maps of the school to lead a group of slaves from safe house to safe house and finally to Canada.

The Bounty hunters tried to stop the slaves who were running for Canada. They had to stay in the field area. If a "slave" was caught, they did not reach freedom.

The Patrol officers were scouring the school looking for safe houses. When they found one, they were able to shut it down. 

Students really took to this simulation and were super serious. So serious that one student asked me if they got caught, would they really die? WOW! What a great reminder to take nothing for granted when explaining things to the students. 

Once our simulation was over, we debriefed together under the trees. The students were super respectful of each other and also had a lot to share about their thoughts and experiences. It was so great to see how they connected with this final lesson in our unit. Afterwards, we went inside where they wrote a response paper sharing their thoughts, feelings, and experiences on the Underground Railroad. 

What the students were saying: 
"I saw from just doing this, that slaves had a hard time. I'm glad I'm not a slave and that Harriet Beecher wrote a book and sold a million copies and it made people think, 'Let's get rid of slavery.' "

"I was so happy when we made it to 'Canada' but my sister was in another group so I was scared for her, but she made it. I went to go hug my sister when she made it and we were all happy."

"I was a conductor. I thought they were going to shut down all the stations (safe houses). I was really scared they would catch me and my slaves."

"I was a slave on the Underground Railroad. I felt like I was going to get caught but I did not get caught."

"I felt so, so, so, so, scared because I thought I was going to get caught. I almost fainted because I didn't know (what was going to happen). When I got to 'Canada' I felt like a slave that had reached their goal to be free."

And then the students did something almost unheard of....the asked to do it all again. When students beg to do the same lesson again, you know something went right! Days like this are the absolute best. 


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