HORSHAM -- To celebrate Black History Month, teachers in Hatboro-Horsham School District thought of meaningful ways to immerse students in their lesson plans. Rachel Hartman, whose home school is Hallowell Elementary, is currently teaching fourth grade at Hatter Academy, and came up with the unique project “Where in the World is Mrs. Hartman?”

The project was inspired by the 1990s game show “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” and also her students’ love for escape rooms.

“I am always looking for ways to make learning more engaging for my students,” said Hartman. “I thought this would be a great way to engage them in learning about Black history, and to make it memorable for them.”

Each learning experience is set up as an “escape room” where students are in small groups in breakout rooms. They work together to analyze clues, which include riddles, maps, and primary and secondary resources to find out where Hartman is and the location’s significance.

One of the locations is the Brown A.M.E Church, an important meeting place where Civil Rights activists stood up for equal voting rights. Students must use clues to discover the state (Alabama), the city (Selma), the exact location (Brown A.M.E. Church) and why Hartman is there. Then the students write a paragraph to explain why it’s important to know about the events that took place there. After the reflection, the activity is wrapped up with teacher instruction and class discussion.

Hartman says her class will engage in one of these activities one or two times per week. Other significant events and locations include Juneteenth in Galveston, Texas; the lunch counter sit-in at the F.W. Woolworth’s Building in Greensboro, N.C.; the Underground Railroad and the White Horse Farm in Phoenixville, Pa.; school segregation and the Daisy Bates House in Little Rock, Ark.; and the Beale Street Music District in Memphis, Tenn.

“I did a lot of research to identify places that are important for people to know about, but I wanted to highlight events and people that my students might not know about yet,” said Hartman. “I also wanted to include locations in different parts of the United States.”

Each place also focused on the change that came out of these locations and events, such as the protesters marches from Brown A.M.E. Church led to the passage of The Voting Rights Act in 1965.

Hartman’s hope is that students learn about the influential people and places in Black history including both struggles and victories.

“I want my students to know that it’s ok to have difficult conversations that can sometimes be uncomfortable,” said Hartman. “Every experience is valuable.”

Hartman presented her project at the February 1, 2021, Board of School Directors meeting. Hatters Academy Principal Dr. Brea D’Angelo asked her to present the project as an example of one of the many innovative lessons throughout the district.

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