Each of these writing activities combines standards from the Vital Results (communication) and Fields of Knowledge (history) portions of Vermont's Framework. They are activities that require students to examine the historical evidence (Standard 1.4c) provided on this web site and to then make interpretations based on the evidence (Standard 6.5a).
- Write a “Letter to the Editor” in the voice of one of Burlington’s citizens. The letter can reflect either the abolitionist or anti-abolitionist point of view. Standards 1.7, 1.8, 6.5
- Working in small groups, write a list of facts about the underground railroad. Using this information, write a story about an escaped slave and the people who helped (or did not help) along the way. Standards 1.7, 1.9, 6.5, 6.6a
- Write a letter from freedom. Tell about your escape, your new life in Vermont or Canada, and give instructions to someone you left behind. Standards 1.7, 1.9, 6.5
- Write a series of diary entries detailing an escape from slavery to freedom. Freedom might be Canada or Vermont. Standards 1.7, 1.9, 6.5
Classroom discussions and activities
These discussion and activity suggestions focus more on the specific fields of knowledge within the History and Social Sciences Standards.
- Have students look at a topographical map of Vermont. See if they can predict the routes fugitives would have taken through Vermont. Look in Siebert’s book and compare their predictions to his map. Standards 6.7d, 6.9d (Geography)
- Pretend a runaway slave arrives at your door. What would you do? Would you shelter them? What would happen to your family if you were caught? What would happen to the fugitive? Is it worth the risk? Write about how you made your decision. Standard 6.20a (Conflict)
- Have students make a list of ways abolitionists got others to join their cause in an age with no television or radio. What are some social issues today? How do groups persuade others to join their cause today? How much has technology changed our methods of communication? What makes a strategy effective? Standard 6.3d (Critical Evaluation)
- Look at the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States and discuss the contradictions of the principles of democracy as they related to African-Americans. Do contradictions still exist today in America? Compare the preamble of the United States Constitution to Vermont’s. What is the main difference between them? Standard 6.11, 6.13 (Citizenship)
- Research the Overground Railroad (a contemporary effort by churches to help Central Americans reach Canada when United States immigration officials refused to grant refugee status). Information can be found in periodicals from the late 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. Grab Hands and Run, by Frances Temple (Orchard Books), is an excellent fictionalized account of one family’s plight. Standards 6,6d (History)
- Have students research the positions of the anti-slavery and the pro-slavery factions. Hold a classroom debate.
- Have students take a nightime walk with their parents. They should locate the Big Dipper and the North Star. See if they can figure out how to walk north. Was the moon out? Was it hard to see? Did they trip? Did they feel lost, cold, scared, spooked?