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Gallery + Classroom Program: Black History Highlights

Dates Available: All school year

Grade Level: A K–5th grade version and a 6th–12th grade version are available.

Minimum Number of Students: 25 students

Maximum Number of Students: 70 students

Galleries Visited:   Seeking St. Louis: Currents & Seeking St. Louis: Reflections

Program Duration: 2 hours

Explore American history through the experiences of African Americans who lived in St. Louis for centuries. Through hands-on activities and engaging discussions, students will encounter the agency of individuals and consider the significance of historic events. Students will explore primary sources and forge a personal connection to the voices, places, and events of St. Louis’s black history.

More about this Gallery + Classroom Program
The black community in St. Louis has played a pivotal role in the nation's fight for equal rights. This program explores black history as a part of American history, on a continuum stretching into the present with our lived experiences. Through hands-on activities and engaging discussions, we highlight the unique and wide-reaching contributions of black St. Louis, from the 1790s to today.

In the Galleries
On the Black History Highlights tour, students will visit three areas of our galleries representing different time periods in St. Louis’s history. At each stop, students will learn about the historical and social context and the agency of the individuals highlighted. Participatory conversations and activities will extend students’ understanding of the exhibits. Here’s a closer look at what the students will see and do:

  • At Stop 1, students will visit the home of the free black woman Jeanette Forchet, who lived in St. Louis around 1790. Students will use primary sources including artifacts from her home and a copy of her inventory, along with the replica of her house, to infer what Jeanette’s daily life was like. Students will compare and contrast their own experiences of home with that of this historical figure.
  • At Stop 2, students will compare and contrast two different experiences of slavery in mid-19th century St. Louis. Stories include those of Dred Scott and Spotswood Rice (a former St. Louis slave who escaped and fought for the Union army). K–5th graders will encounter and connect with their lives and actions through storytelling, as they identify and compare and contrast the emotions of the men and their families. Older students will analyze their lives and actions as they interpret primary-source documents. 
  • At Stop 3, students will encounter the civil rights movement in St. Louis over the past 100 years. Using photographs, newspaper articles, and their own experiences, students will analyze and compare and contrast the methods, causes, and effects of various resistance movements that happened here in St. Louis. Students will contextualize and evaluate a variety of events, including the Jefferson Bank sit-ins, Percy Green’s ascent of the Arch, and the protests in Ferguson.

*Please note that the above stops may not occur in chronological order. Also, portions of each stop may be cut out if your group arrives late.

In the Classroom
Following the tour, students will explore additional primary-source documents in a classroom activity while forging a personal connection to the people, places, and events of St. Louis's black history:

  • K–5th grades, Empathy and Oral Histories: Elementary students will listen to a selection of oral histories told by St. Louisans who experienced segregation, the civil rights movement, and everyday life in historic St. Louis firsthand. Through drawn and written responses, students will identify the main event of each oral history and infer how the storytellers may have responded to their circumstances.
  • 6th–12th grades, Mapping a Just Society: Secondary students will work in teams to define what a just society should be. Using their own experience, listening to the experiences of their peers, and analyzing historical examples of justice and injustice, student teams will question, explain, elaborate, and interpret their concepts of societal justice.

*Please note that portions of the activity may be cut out if your group arrives late. Also, if your group is over 35 students, half of the group may do the classroom first.

 Please read our K-12 Policies before booking this program.

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Critical Thinking
Regardless of which field trip experience you choose, all of our programs are designed to emphasize the critical thinking skills students use in museums, the classroom, and as lifelong learners. These big goals drive our program creation, our staff training, and our program evaluation for a holistic and outcome-driven approach.

For all K–12 programs we strive to create and facilitate experiences in which learners will individually and collaboratively use Museum spaces, objects, and content to:

  • compare and contrast the past and present
  • make connections between the people, places, and stories of history and their personal experience
  • comprehend and evaluate multiple perspectives and past choices
  • express and support their own perspectives on history

Here are some Pre-Visit Activities and other resources.

What are Teachers saying about Black History Highlights?
"I highly recommend Black History Highlights. The classroom portion was thought provoking and yielded some good student discussion. The museum highlights put a spotlight on local events in the struggle for civil rights, which the kids really enjoyed."

"I loved how the students were able to reflect and talk about what they saw on the tour."

"I like how the presentation reflected on events that took place recently (Mike Brown) and compared them to the past."

"One girl in my group of K–2 girls (who are quite diverse) made a real connection when they realized their best friend (who is black) would not have been at school during segregation, and a light went on about how unfair the practice was. That alone was worth the trip!"

"I hope you will continue with this Black History Highlights program in the coming years. On the tour, the guides were very personable and enthusiastic. I really liked the displays they pointed out in connection with Black History. The classroom activity sparked good discussion and the facilitators did a great job of explaining and motivating each table to participate. I really liked the use of primary documents."

"(What was one major take-away of the day?) I would say seeing my students make connections to real world experiences and understand the impact of history on their lives today."

Program Modifications
We understand that there are many factors that may cause your bus to be late. However, due to other group reservations and the schedules of our Museum Educators, we can't extend the length of your visit past your reservation time. If you arrive late, we'll do our best to still deliver the program you reserved; however, modifications may be necessary depending on your arrival time. For groups that are excessively late, significant changes to your program will be necessary.

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