A group of sixth and seventh graders recently took part in a educational workshops at the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie. Teacher Katelyn Fletcher’s sixth grade English Language Arts students took part in the “Frightening Fiction” workshop. Teacher Holly Thompson’s seventh grade social studies students participated in the “Jump on The Freedom Train” session about the Underground Railroad.
Thompson said her students’ workshop was led by Reggie Harris, a former performer. The workshop started with a singalong to songs written by slaves as they ventured toward freedom in the North. Students then worked in groups with a map and situation cards to simulate an actual journey on the Underground Railroad. The students presented their itineraries to the group and they were evaluated to see if they would have realistically made it to freedom.
Thompson said students also wrote letters to describe their journey and constructed statements that they read at a mock abolitionist meeting. She played the person who heckled them about their beliefs.
“The whole day centers around these simulations and kids working in groups. They like the singing the best! Reggie is incredible,” Thompson said. “It’s an honor to participate and to spend the day with this great man. Students are able to do things that I’m not able to do in class.”
Fletcher said for the “Frightening Fiction” workshop, her ELA students were guided through different writing prompts, and challenged to think about what it means to be a writer and how many emotions and ideas can be portrayed in a story.
“This was such a great opportunity for our sixth graders because it gave them the chance to advance their creative writing skills,” Fletcher said. “It also provided them with the opportunity to listen to and share their writing with students from other school districts in the area.”