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Middle School History Students Create "Doors of Opportunity"

During their Civil Rights unit, Alissa Kharkar’s 8th grader history students learned about Reconstruction and the revolutionary amendments that were put in place during that short period of time. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery across the entire country. The 14th Amendment defined citizenship and rights granted and protected as a result of being a U.S. citizen. Last but not least, the 15th Amendment protected the right to vote for all men, but especially newly freed Black men. It was a time of growth and opportunity in the nation. Unfortunately, these “Doors of Opportunity” closed all too soon, when Reconstruction came to an end and Southern politicians established new laws that limited or prevented these new rights and freedoms from being realized. This was the start of the “Jim Crow Era” that lasted for nearly 100 years, forcing Black Americans and other minorities to live as second-class citizens. Despite efforts to force the acknowledgment of the numerous violations of constitutional rights, there was no support at the local, state, and national levels to prevent the passing of these discriminatory laws.
 
The students moved forward in this unit to the post-WWII era when the Civil Rights Movement gained momentum. The 8th graders learned about Supreme Court rulings that recognized the unconstitutionality of Jim Crow laws and the new legislation that was put in place to protect the personal rights and freedoms of minority groups moving forward. Examples are the Brown vs. Board of Education ending segregation in schools and the Civil Rights Act of 1957 and 1964 that protected voting rights and ended segregation in public facilities. These changes once again opened the “Doors of Opportunities” to Black Americans, as well as other minority groups.
 
These are the changes displayed on the left door. The 8th graders had full creative freedom to design a door that focused on one or more of the amendments, laws, or Supreme Court rulings that protected individual rights and freedoms. In their written explanations they had to share how the legislation or court ruling led to positive change in the country. 
 
The door on the right side focuses on injustices that still exist today and need to be addressed. Mrs. Kharkar spent time in class discussing current voting restrictions and their impact, and systemic issues that have caused huge disparities in wealth across America. In addition, the class discussed new movements, such as Black Lives Matter, and their goals. The students took this information, along with additional research, to design their “Paving a Road to Equality” door. 
 
Working with Maggie Marshall, Browne’s director of innovation, the 8th graders used a laser cutter to transfer/burn the students’ designs onto wood panels. Each door also has handles created on one of the school’s 3-D printers.  
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