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Webquest About Grades 3-5

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Many Southern blacks migrated to the North in search of better education for their children. Although the school system in the North was also segregated, schools for blacks were still better than the schools in the South.

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In this webquest you will:
  • Look at how Jacob Lawrence has portrayed education in The Migration Series.

  • Look at images on the web of old school houses and compare them to your own classrooms.

  • Read the story of a student’s experience in an old school.

  • Compare some of the differences between urban and rural schools.

  • Imagine that you are in school a hundred years ago, and make a scrapbook of this experience.
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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. Look at images of old schoolhouses that are linked in the web resources below.

    How do these schools look to you?
    How do you think they may have been different from your school?
    Try to imagine a day in the life of a student in a one-room schoolhouse.
    What is it like to have all grades in one room?
    Imagine doing all your work on a little piece of slate.
    Imagine using an inkwell that sits in your desk.
    Imagine that all the heat in the room comes from one gas stove sitting in the middle.
    Look around your classroom. What do you see that you think would be in a one-room schoolhouse? What would definitely not be there?

  3. With your teacher, read the story of a student in a school from history. See the literature resources below.

    How is education different now than what it used to be?
    In what ways have schools been unfair to certain people?
    Are they different now?
    Some stories tell of school life in the city, and others tell of school life in the country.
    Where do you go to school?
    What do you think might be some of the differences between city schools, suburban schools, and rural schools?

  4. Imagine that you are in school a hundred years ago.

    Describe what a day in your school is like.
    What is your teacher like?
    What are you learning in school?
    What do you do after school?

    Make a scrapbook of this experience. Include drawings and writing.

  5. Share your stories with your classmates.
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Preacher’s Boy by Katherine Paterson, Harper Trophy, February 2001. Takes place in turn of the century Vermont.

The Journal of Ben Uchida: Citizen 13559 Mirror Lake Internment Camp by Harry Denenberg, Scholastic Paperbacks, September 1999.

White Socks Only by Evelyn Coleman, Albert Whitman and Company, 1999.

Upper Copp’s Hill by Katherine Ayers, Pleasant Company Publications, 2000. 1908. Boston’s North End community of Italian and Jewish immigrants living in tenement housing.

Granddaddy’s Gift by Margaree King Mitchel, Troll Associated, 1998. Life on the farm in segregated Mississippi. A story about education and democracy.

Nothing to Fear by Jackie French Koller, Harcourt Brace, 1993. Irish immigrants in depression era New York City.

A Letter to Mrs. Roosevelt by C. Coco De Young, Yearling Books, 2000. A Depression era story.

Richard Wright and the Library Card by William Miller, Lee and Low Books, 1997.

The Road to Memphis by Mildred Taylor. The story of being in high school in Jackson, Mississippi in 1941.

Kit Learns a Lesson: 1934 A School Story by Valerie Tripp, Pleasant Company Publications, 2000.


Picture of a one-room schoolhouse as it exists today.

A one-room schoolhouse in West Virginia.

A one-room schoolhouse in Ohio.

The inside of a 1939 Pennsylvania classroom.

Recreating the experience of the one-room schoolhouse.


The oldest wooden one-room schoolhouse in the US.

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You will be evaluated on the scrapbook that you made about an imaginary school that existed 100 years ago. Your teacher may also choose to create rubrics for evaluation.
  • Refer back to "Questions to Consider" in the  Process section. Does your scrapbook address the questions listed? Does the viewer get a sense of what your teacher and school are like? What kinds of things do you learn in school?

  • Does the scrapbook include factual information, as well as personal information such as thoughts, feelings and emotions about what a typical day might be like for a student?

  • What kinds of stories could you make up to go with your pictures?

  •  Learning Standards Addressed
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As a class, present and discuss your scrapbook school stories of 100 years ago. Compare your stories with a typical day at your school.

As a class, collaborate to make a scrapbook about a day at your school in the twenty-first century.

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©2001 Whitney Museum of American Art