Ruby Bridges is a brave role model for young children and adults everywhere. When looking for a way to introduce civil rights and Black History Month to my young first graders, she instantly came to mind. Because Ruby was just six years old when she entered Frantz Elementary in New Orleans, she is a figure my kids can identify with.
I used Scholastic’s Ruby Bridges resources, along with the kindergarten to second grade lesson plan, and my own twists to create a cross-curricular lesson that fits Common Core State Standards, 21st-century skills, and civil rights history all into a few informative class sessions.
I watched a wonderful lesson by my coworker, Mrs. Winberg, and stole it to try with my class. When introducing civil rights she displays a "Colored People Upstairs" sign and asks her children to guess at the meaning. Her class, and mine, displayed wonderfully childlike and open-minded responses. Most students said there was a party for people who were painted different colors upstairs. We used this photo as a jumping off point, explaining what it really meant, and how some people were not treated fairly.
Following that introduction, I used the Ruby Bridges lesson plan for younger grades. My students saw images of Ruby Bridges in school, escorted by U.S. Marshals, and they realized that Ruby was a real child, like them. Because of our close proximity to New Orleans, many students understood the area that Ruby grew up in. They could relate to her experiences, which is powerful for students.
After reading The Story of Ruby Bridges and Ruby Bridges Goes to School, students wrote letters to Ruby. This was our first letter-writing lesson, but the notes were heartfelt and showed understanding. Finally, students were given an option to create a summary of what they learned with the Educreations free app. It allows students to use photos as the background for their voice recordings. Some students even incorporated sound clips from a second device into their lessons. The lessons they created are shared in the classroom, so everyone can learn both summary techniques and iPad skills.
Students worked on history, writing, reading, and 21st-century skills in several succinct lessons. Perhaps the best lesson of all is that Ruby was treated unfairly, and we should celebrate our differences. It’s a lesson my young students take to heart.