Friday, April 5
Follow the Drinking Gourd: Civil Rights, Astronomy, and History for Little Ones
I recently taught my kiddos (grades K-2nd) about Civil Rights. I based our unit around the book "Follow the Drinking Gourd". Such an amazing story! The pictures are bright and interesting, kids learn not only about freedom but even a bit of astronomy while reading it, and it's a very thought-provoking, and discussion-inspiring read. I have to admit, I had a hard time answering all of my children's deep and honest questions without choking up--we're so blessed to live in a time when many children can't comprehend treating someone unfairly because of the color of their skin. I was so touched and moved by the book, by the idea that so many people risked their lives on the Underground Railroad because they believed with more than words that all people really were created equal. I told my children about my own story about the time when I visited a home that was used as part of the Underground Railroad...
Once upon a time when I was a little girl, my Aunt Kat was visiting. She and my mom had this glorious idea to pretend to be "rich people" so we could convince a realtor to let us see an antebellum mansion rumored to have a secret room used by the Underground Railroad. They told me to put on my best dress and not to say a word. I was only too happy to get dressed up and that last part was easy, too, since I was one of the shyest girls in the world back then. So off we went, and I guess we played our parts well enough. The entire mansion tour was pretty amazing and then, just as the tour was about to end, we were shown to a hall closet. The realtor opened the closet door and, really, there didn't seem to be anything extraordinary about it. But when she pushed on the back wall, a door swung open revealing a long passageway. We walked down the passage and, to a little 9 year old girl at least, it seemed to stretch on for a mile. At the end of the passage, there was a room the size of a bedroom. It was pink and lacy and filled up with Barbie dolls, but 150 years ago this was a room used to bring slaves to freedom.
Of course, after the story, my children wanted to see an Underground Railroad home themselves. Unfortunately, we don't live near any states that were a part of it. If you do, Google "Underground Railroad Home (or Museum)". There are tons of places in the midwest, north, and south that you could visit.
"Follow the Drinking Gourd" is often used in school curriculum so I'll bet you can find it at most libraries.... or you can also watch the read-aloud embedded from Youtube. After you read it, it will open up so much discussion with your kids. Be prepared to be rewarded! Later at night, go outside and find the "Drinking Gourd"--the Big Dipper--and talk about how thousands of slaves followed those very same stars to their freedom.