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African and American Lesson Plan: A Celebration
Overview
The narrative Haitian Immigration: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries examines the role of Catholicism in the segment "The Haitian Influence on Religion." Using the narrative as a springboard, an individual teacher, subject department or team, or the entire school will organize African and American, a celebration of African immigration and migration. November 3rd is the feast day of St. Martin de Porres, the only saint of African descent in the hemisphere recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. It may be as appropriate a day around which to organize activities as St. Patrick's Day, which has been transformed from a Catholic holy day into a popular celebration of ethnicity. Students, teachers, and the community will explore African cultural remnants from the era of the slave trade, as well as vibrant cultural traditions of contemporary immigrants of African origin. Foods, music, arts, crafts, and folkways may be explored and shared by students who conduct research and/or by inviting members of the community to share such traditions.
Grade Levels:Middle school, grades 6-8
For use with:Haitian Immigration: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries
Concentration Area:History
National Curriculum Standards met by this lesson
The following standards have been taken from the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McRel) standards.
Students will understand

  • How slavery shaped social and economic life in the South after 1800 (e.g., the cotton gin and the opening of new lands in the South and West led to increased demands for slaves; differences in the lives of plantation owners, poor free black and white families and slaves; methods of passive and active resistance to slavery; escaped slaves and the Underground Railroad).
  • Different economic cultural and social characteristics of slavery after 1800 (e.g., the influence of the Haitian Revolution and the ending of the Atlantic slave trade, how slaves forged their own culture in the face of oppression, the role of the plantation system in shaping slaveholders and the enslaved, the experiences of escaped slaves).
Time required
Three 50-minute class periods if students complete most reading, research, and organizational assignments outside of class, and depending on the degree of school-wide and community participation
Materials needed
Anticipatory Set

  1. Ask students to brainstorm their associations for St. Patrick's Day and record them on the chalkboard, a flipchart, or a transparency. Poll students with these questions:

    1. How many know that you are of Irish extraction to some degree?
    2. How many know that you are not of Irish extraction?
    3. How many who are of Irish extraction celebrate St. Patrick's Day in some manner?
    4. How many who are not of Irish extraction celebrate St. Patrick's Day in some manner, even in trivial ways such as wearing green to ward of pinches?
    5. Do you think of St. Patrick's Day primarily as a Catholic holy day as opposed to a cultural celebration?
  2. The Schomburg Center's online exhibition The African Presence in the Americas 1492-1992 features the image of St. Martin de Porres, a seventeenth-century Peruvian priest who was the first black man canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church and who remains the only saint of African descent in the hemisphere. Print out and either post his picture or project a transparency of his picture from: http://www.si.umich.edu/CHICO/Schomburg/text/culture20c.html.
  3. Explain that the class will be preparing and organizing for a celebration of African migration and immigration. If it is to be held on or around November 3rd, explain that this is the feast day of St. Martin de Porres. Let students know that the celebration will be cultural, as opposed to religious, in the spirit of St. Valentine's Day or St. Patrick's Day as popularly celebrated by non-Catholics.
Procedures

  1. Provide a sign-up sheet so students, individually or in pairs, may select a topic on which to conduct their research. They may research either African cultural remnants from the era of the slave trade or contemporary immigrants of African origin, using, for instance, the topics below:

    1. Wedding traditions;
    2. Baby and childbirth traditions, including naming patterns;
    3. Funeral traditions;
    4. Foods and recipes;
    5. Arts and crafts;
    6. Folk-tales or story-telling methods (structure and language use);
    7. Vocal and instrumental music; dance; or
    8. Worship traditions.
  2. Ask students to research their topic using both media resources (books, musical recordings, cookbooks, the Internet) and, where available, community resources such as individuals (restaurateurs, artists, craft artisans, import boutique owners, clergy, story-tellers, musicians, dancers, or cultural anthropologists or linguists from a college or university) or institutions (folkloric dance or music groups, museums, cultural centers, churches, or mosques).
  3. If the celebration is within the class alone, you may have students present the information they have discovered themselves (including demonstrating dance, instrumental or vocal examples, or story-telling) or, if possible, arrange for members of the community to appear and share their perspectives. In such cases, you should expect the student to participate by interviewing the community member.

    Students who are unable to prepare samples of food may, instead, create a recipe file. Please review guidelines for your school district about foods being brought into schools and, where necessary, arrange with the school cafeteria staff for the holding of food under proper temperature conditions. Any food served should include a complete list of ingredients so that there are no allergic reactions.
  4. If the interviewee cannot come to school but consents, you may have the student record their interview either with an audio or video device. One excellent explanation of how to conduct oral histories (albeit in the context of Vietnam veterans but readily adapted) appears at the Re: Vietnam, Stories Since the War PBS website at: http://www.pbs.org/pov/stories/vietnam/curriculum.html.
  5. If the celebration is school-wide, you can have students become involved in organizing the event, including the activities below:

    1. Scheduling stage performances.
    2. Securing food-holding facilities.
    3. Making certain that anyone who requires audio-visual materials, electrical outlets, or a sink has one available.
    4. Arranging ticket sales and cleaning up.
    5. Advertising the event to the community.
    Students should also prepare invitations and thank-you notes to follow up. They also could prepare, possibly, evaluations on which participants may comment about what worked and what didn't work for future reference and improvement. You and administrators may wish to make decisions in advance and create guidelines about the degree of commercial involvement, for example, whether a boutique owner or craft demonstrator may sell his or her products or whether a restaurateur who has contributed food samples may advertise his or her business with coupons.
Assessment

1. For classroom presentations: You may evaluate these on a 20-point scale (which may be multiplied by 5 to convert to a 100-point scale or to letter grades) using the following rubric:

Grading Element/Total Points Excellent (10) Good (9-8) Fair (7-6) Not Satisfactory (5-1) Poor or No Work (0)
Research

(10)

  • Locates and uses specific information from a wide range of sources both obvious and unusual
  • Assesses the cultural impact of Africans in America
  • Contains no factual errors
  • Locates and uses general information and examples from obvious sources
  • Assesses the cultural impact of Africans in America
  • Contains no factual errors
  • Locates and uses general information from a limited number of sources
  • Provides weak assessment of the cultural impact of Africans in America
  • Contains no factual errors
  • Research is weak, topic coverage is incomplete or unbalanced
  • Shows little effort to assess the cultural impact of Africans in America
  • May contain factual errors
  • No research
  • Student does not treat an interview subject with respect during and after the interview
  • Project Presentation:

    (Audio or Visual Display, Performance, or Demonstration)

    (10)

  • Well-balanced, thorough presentation of topic information
  • Appealing project or performance showing originality
  • Media enhances understanding of topic
  • Captions or introductory explanations are excellent, either audible and clear or well-written and informative
  • Generally balanced, complete presentation of topic information
  • Appealing project or performance
  • Media generally supports topic
  • Captions are useful and generally conform to language rules; or, introductory explanations are useful and audible
  • Presentation of information is not complete for the topic
  • Appealing project or performance
  • Media may not always be appropriate to topic
  • Captions missing in some cases or not clear, and may contain errors in language usage; or, introductory explanations are not helpful or are so soft, rapid, or mumbled that they cannot be heard
  • Presentation of data is incomplete or missing in some aspects of topic, or is very vague
  • Project is sloppy or disorganized
  • Media does not tie in with topic
  • Little or no captioning or introductory explanations, which may be unclear or irrelevant; and exhibit has many errors in language usage
  • No project

    2. For school-wide activities: Ask students to write a formal paragraph or composition on what they have learned about the cultural impact of Africans, past and present, on life in America. They may concentrate on the area in which they have specialized but should also reference examples from other students' work. You also may evaluate these on a 20-point scale (which may be multiplied by 5 to convert to a 100-point scale or to letter grades) using the following rubric:

    Grading Element/Total Points Excellent (10) Good (9-8) Fair (7-6) Not Satisfactory (5-1) Poor/No Work (0)
    Written Assignment's Content

    (10)
    Demonstrates excellent:

  • Research which is thorough, and imaginative in the number and variety of sources used
  • Command of facts
  • Analysis and application of information
  • Assessment of cultural impact of Africans in America
  • Demonstrates good:

  • Research, which is quite complete and from several sources
  • Command of facts
  • Analysis and application of information
  • Assessment of cultural impact of Africans in America
  • Shows fair:

  • Research, which is very general and from limited sources
  • Command of facts
  • Analysis and application of information
  • Assessment of cultural impact of Africans in America
  • Shows little:

  • Research or effort to locate information, sources not clear
  • Command of facts
  • Analysis or application; rather, it shows only recitation of facts
  • No assessment of the cultural impact of Africans in America
  • Student does not treat an interview subject with respect during and after the interview
    Written Assignment's

    Technical Writing Skills

    (10)
    Shows excellent:

  • Compositional structure
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • Shows good:

  • Compositional structure
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • Shows adequate:

  • Compositional structure
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • Shows inadequate:

  • Compositional structure
  • Sentence structure and variety
  • Vocabulary use
  • Grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • No work

    Related Works

    • The Schomburg Center has numerous images of African Americans in urban settings in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Visit the online exhibit, Harlem 1900-1940: An African-American Community, accessible at: http://www.si.umich.edu/CHICO/Harlem/index.html. The exhibition includes a timeline, teacher materials, and a resource list.
    • The Schomburg Center has an excellent collection of documents pertaining to Haiti. Online, it features a bank document transferring money from the National Bank of Haiti to New York's National City Company, 1920, at: http://www.nypl.org/research/sc/WEBEXHIB/legacy/imgtxt7.htm.
    • The Smithsonian Institution's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage provides both ideas for festival organization and material collected by participants in past folk festivals. It also has online exhibitions and teacher materials. The website is at: http://www.folklife.si.edu/.
    • The Library of Congress' American Memory Collection features over seven million online digital documents. It is a rich resource for a wide variety of documents about the African-American experience, including the online exhibit African-American Odyssey. American Memory's homepage is: http://memory.loc.gov/ and African-American Odyssey is at: http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/aaohtml/. The segment on "Western Migration and Homesteading" can be accessed at: http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/african/afam009.html.
    Interdisciplinary Links

  • Foreign Language: Because some immigrants may not speak English fluently, some teachers, language students, or bilingual students may assist with translations during interviews or presentations.
  • Art, Industrial Arts, and Domestic Arts: Teachers of art, cooking, sewing, or wood- or metal-working may team students in their classes with student presenters to assist them in creating their projects. Alternately, they may team their students with community presenters as apprentices to observe techniques and attempt to produce the demonstrated craft on their own.
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