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Berner’s Young Historians Explore the Path to Freedom

Seventh graders are studying the causes of the Civil War in social studies classes at Berner Middle School in the Massapequa School District, and they gained more insight during a Breakout EDU activity in the library that focused on the Underground Railroad.

Students explored the network of people and safe houses that helped bring slaves to freedom. They solved clues to open a series of locks, such as reading maps and finding messages written in invisible ink. They also had to find their conductor in the library, but also had to avoid the bounty hunters. Those parts were played by library media specialists Laurie Martucci-Walsh and Julie Rogers, as well as the social studies teachers.

Each station was in honor of a real person to escaped to freedom in the north, including Henry Brown, William and Ellen Craft, Harriet Jacobs and Robert Smalls. Students, working in groups, had to figure out all of the locks to open the box and find out their person’s fate.

Ms. Martucci-Walsh and Ms. Rogers explained that the Underground Railroad lesson is their original activity with the Breakout EDU kits, dating back seven years. The kits are now used for activities across all subject areas to promote content knowledge through collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving.

The Underground Railroad activity gives students insight into the challenges that slaves faced to escape to freedom, while also providing historical context on one of the main causes of the Civil War.