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Webquest About Grades 6-12

Introduction  Task  Process  Resources  Evaluation  Reflection


Many southern blacks migrated to the North in search of better educational opportunities for their children. Although the school system in the North was also segregated, schools for blacks had better equipment and larger staff than their southern counterparts. Northern states also had compulsory education laws, which encouraged students to stay in school rather than drop out and work as southern blacks often did. Nearly twice as many black students completed high school in the North compared to the South.1

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In this webquest you will:
  • Examine how Jacob Lawrence has depicted education in The Migration Series.

  • Research and discuss school segregation in the Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education, 1954.

  • Make a study of your own school population or  demographics.

  • Collaborate in small groups to redesign your school. Create a presentation on paper or on the computer.

  • Present and discuss your design with the class.
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In the North the Negro had better educational facilities.

The Migration of the Negro, panel 58, 1940-41
Casein tempera on hardboard
12 x 18 in. (30.5 x 45.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York; gift of Mrs. David M. Levy
© Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, courtesy of the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation
  1. Look at  Jacob Lawrence's painting, panel #58 from The Migration Series. Move your mouse over the painting and find questions to discuss with your classmates.

  2. Read the information about Jacob Lawrence's painting, panel #58 from The Migration Series.

    What aspects of school education are important to you? Why?

  3. Explore and research Brown v. Board of Education web resources below. Have a class discussion. Consider the following questions:

    What does the term "separate but equal" mean to you?
    Why do you think the Supreme Court ruled that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal"? Do you agree? Why or why not? What impact did the Brown v. Board of Education decision have on the lives of school students in the US at that time?

    Is it important for you to go to the school of your choice? Why or why not?
    What effect have your choices had on your educational experience?
    How would you feel if you were prevented from going to school?
    How would you get an education?

  4. Make a study of your own school population or demographics.

    Who goes to your school?
    When new students join your school, how does your school welcome them?
    Is everyone welcome? Why or why not?
    Make a scrapbook of this experience. Include drawings and writing.

  5. Divide into small groups. Do some research at your school. Talk to your teachers and administrative staff.

    What systems work in your school? How do they work?
    What doesn’t work? Why?
    What changes would the staff make? What changes would you make? Write a report about your findings.

  6. As a group, present and discuss your report with the class.

    What information did you gather?
    Did people express similar or different opinions?
    What did you discover about your school?

  7. In your group, redesign your school. Discuss your plans, make drawings, and take notes for a class presentation.

    If you have access to a computer and a scanner, create your presentation in  PowerPoint, Microsoft Word, HyperStudio, or other software that incorporates images and text. If you can, add sound. Use your own voice to narrate your text.

    Think about the existing architecture and how you would change it.
    Would new buildings need to be added?
    How would you modify and improve existing spaces?
    What would classrooms look like? What kinds of equipment, technology, and facilities would you provide?

    Think about the school grounds. What facilities do you have? What additional facilities would you want? Why?

    Consider the classes or courses.
    How would you restructure them? What time length would they be?
    What services would you provide at your school?
    Meals? Counseling? After school activities?

  8. Present and discuss your school designs with the class. Use your notes to make a convincing argument for your plans and ideas.
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Brown v. Board of Education.

A contemporary view of Brown v. Board of Education.

Melba Patillo and school integration.

Read Gov. Wallace’s opinions and answer the questions below.

Oral history project, Race and Desegregation: Asheville High School.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault interviews Ruby Bridges Hall, who in 1960 became the first African American to enter a white elementary school in New Orleans.

An account of school integration from 1955 to 1975.

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You will be evaluated on two elements: your participation in class discussions about the Brown v. Board of Education case and a group evaluation on the redesign of your school. Your teacher may also choose to create rubrics for evaluation.
  • Class Discussion Evaluation: Refer to the questions listed in the  Process section. Did you demonstrate an understanding of the Brown v. Board of Education case, and were you able to articulate your own perspectives and opinions about the issues raised?

  • Were you able to articulate in your own words what the term "separate but equal" means and what it means for you personally in the context of education?

  • Group Evaluation: School Redesign: During the process of studying your own school in groups, did your group show evidence of teamwork and collaboration, as well as time management and consensus building? How did you decide to break up the tasks?

  • How comprehensive and well thought out is the redesign of your school? Do you have an understanding of the way the school operates now so that your redesign addresses issues and things that need to be changed? Does your redesign include a representation of opinions and perspectives across the school population (teachers, administration, parents, students)?

  • What kind of creative drawings, photographs, or digital images do you have to accompany your redesign? Can others get a sense of what the new school would look like based on the information you provided to them?

  • What key elements does your redesign include? Is it representative of your groups' opinions or of the school culture as a whole? How persuasive was your argument in convincing others that your redesign would enhance or improve school operations? What kind of feedback did you receive based on your redesign?

  •  Learning Standards Addressed
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View and discuss some of these suggested films:

Blackboard Jungle, 1954

Savage Inequalities, PBS film based on the book by Jonathan Kozol

Conrack, 1974

What are some of the issues in the United States school education system today?
What changes need to be made?
What would you do to implement these changes?

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1. Spencer Crew, Field to Factory: Afro-American Migration 1915-1940. (Washington, D.C.: National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institute, 1987), p. 59.

©2001 Whitney Museum of American Art