Jordan Perez – Underground Railroad Program
Process Essay by Jordan Perez
When we were told that we had a project, I was a bit nervous. Projects and me usually don’t mix that well. And then when we were informed that we got to pick what our project was, I was a bit confused as well as nervous. I had absolutely no idea what I should do. Luckily, I had an awesome instructor who was more than willing to help and was able to point me in the direction of the Sam Davis Home. There, I found Ms. Rebecca Duke who is the Education Coordinator there, at the site. We talked about it and finally we came with the idea to put on some kind of presentation for third, fourth, and fifth graders. However, she left it up to me to pick the topic. Well, inside the museum there, I was really intrigued with the African American exhibit. It got me thinking about the Underground Railroad. And this is what I decided my project would be about.
The project itself was a presentation that would take the audience on imaginative journey through one of the routes of the Underground Railroad. As far as what the final, tangible product is, it is a script with pictures of the key people that we met on the journey. We started our journey on a plantation in Maryland and then I told my audience that I had heard news that a few other enslaved African Americans had made their way to freedom. Then I asked if they wanted to take the dangerous trek across the country in hopes of one day being free.
On the journey we made three major stops where we met a few of the key figures that made the Underground Railroad a success. The first person we met was the conductor of the entire operation, Harriet Tubman, herself. Next we made our way to Wilmington, Delaware. While there we met a man name Thomas Garrett, a longtime friend of Harriet Tubman who is credited with helping over 2,000 runaway slaves for more than 40 years (http://www.whispersofangels.com/biographies.html). Then we went to Philadelphia and New York where we met important figures, Frederick Douglas and Susan B. Anthony, before finally reaching our freedom in the Canada.
I was able to complete this project with a little help from one of our class discussions. I’m not exactly sure what day it was, but it was when we were talking about museums having an “edutainment” style of teaching. Even though, I learned about so many different job possibilities in this class, I still want to be a teacher and I would like to bring this style of educating students into the classroom. I believe that education should venture away from the text book and the students should get involved in some kind of way. This is what was able to give me the idea of putting on a physical presentation where kids actually used their imaginations and participated with me.
I really enjoyed this project. I have never really been one to use my creative side, but I have to say that I am quite proud of myself for coming up with this idea. Also, I’ve always been the real shy type who never got up in front of people to talk. So this was really great practice for me for when I do become a teacher, even though it was only younglings. It was a real simple project, so I didn’t really have any problems and because I didn’t have any problems putting it together, there really wasn’t anything about it that I didn’t like. If I had to pick something however, it would probably be the fact that I had to get in front of a group of people and actually talk. I just had to suck it up and put on the best presentation/show that I could! In the end, I’m glad that I was able to work with the Sam Davis Home and do this particular project.
The way in which my project helped people better understand history, was that it was an oral presentation. Instead of reading about the Underground Railroad, they were able to somewhat experience it. In an event open to the public, I was able to give a history lesson to anyone and everyone who showed up.
Like I said before, the whole point of this project was to get my audience involved, and the thing we learned this year that relates to this was when we talked about participatory museums. Nina Simon defines a participatory cultural institution, “as a place where visitors can create, share, and connect with each other around content,” (Nina Simon- http://www.participatorymuseum.org/preface/). How much more participatory can you get than actually having to use your imagination, running from the hounds and knocking on the doors of safe houses in the hopes of eventually reaching our freedom?!
All in all I was very pleased how the project turned out. It was a great learning experience and volunteer experience. I’m hoping that I will be able to keep a relationship with the SDH and able to volunteer more.
- http://www.participatorymuseum.org/preface/ -Nina Simon, Participatory Museums
- http://www.whispersofangels.com/biographies.html – Underground Railroad Info