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Grade 8: Creative Projects Express Civil Rights Learning

Following their return from the Civil Rights trip, eighth-graders reconvened to work on creative projects that memorialize a person, place or event that was significant to the Civil Rights movement. These tangible displays of their immeasurable learning and growth help students demonstrate their knowledge and process their reactions to experiences on the trip.
Luca Siringo used a decorative tree for his project memorializing those who were lynched during the turbulent and violent era. He was impacted by exhibits at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery and said, “I wanted to represent the growth of our country since then and show ways we still need to grow in order for there to be equality.”

For her art piece, Bricin Mahoney used a chess game to portray lunch counter sit-ins where peaceful protesters were harshly treated. “The board reminded me of diner floor tiles,” she began. “A chessboard also represents a battlefield just like the protesters were battling for their rights.”

After visiting the Stax Museum in Memphis, Asriel Lucero designed his project to show his appreciation for the role of music in bridging the divide between blacks and whites. “Music brings people together,” he said. “There was a lot of hatred and violence, so I used a broken record as a metaphor.” 

In addition to their art projects, students wrote “justifications” for their memorial designs and worked with a peer to review each other’s work. Overall, the projects were evaluated against several standards of excellence:

  • Overall Project: Visually gorgeous, thoughtfully composed, evokes a strong emotional response.
  • Object Choice: Exudes symbolism and expresses the student’s deep and creative thinking.
  • Textual Selection: Complements the object and brings deeper meaning to the project.
  • Effort: The student was engaged, prepared with supplies and showed an enthusiastic attitude. 
Following the assignment, students in Grades 7/8, faculty and staff were invited to see the projects up close and spend time reading the justifications to gain an appreciation for the student learning and reflection on display.

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Sofia Saavedra wrote this poem after visiting the National Museum of Civil and Human Rights and experiencing an impactful simulation of how peaceful lunch counter protesters were treated.

The Lunch Counter, by Sofia Saavedra
Cold whispers breathing down my neck
Someone hit me
My seat wobbling, 
A fork.
Cold whispers, my seat wobbling, a fork.
My hands up, my fist ready, but I wouldn’t punch.
A mob surrounds me until I’m invisible
I can’t remember what my face looks like, I can only see theirs 
I’m nervous, I want to scream 
Get up! Get up!
Police sirens
At first, I felt a sense of relief 
Then I realized,
The police aren’t here for me, they’re here against me
I’m anxious
Flinching at the sounds coming through my headphones
Just sitting here, head down at this counter, in a museum in Georgia, on an 8th-grade school trip 
I wonder 
Will it ever end?
It ended, 
the movie playing in my mind was over,
I was able to take off my headphones
Just as you can now.
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Graland Country Day School

Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.