Kelly O’Brien teaches African American History at The Milton Hersey School in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Her class studied the Great Migration and used the Phillips’s Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series website as a resource, including imagining what Panel 61 of the series would look like. Explore their artworks and read about how Ms. O’Brien’s class learned from Lawrence’s artwork.
Last year, when I was building our African American History course here at the Milton Hershey School, in particular the unit on “Migration and Identity,” I was so happy to find Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and to use it as a resource for teaching. When I realized the Philips’s website also challenged viewers to create their own panel, I thought, “What a great educational opportunity for my students!”
In this unit, we began by considering the origins of the Migration by simply looking at the historical background using resources like PBS’s “Many Rivers to Cross” website and documentaries. We also considered the personal experience of the Migration by studying excerpts from The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson. Finally, the students examined Jacob Lawrence’s panels and created a brief timeline of how Lawrence envisioned the Migration. From there, the students were challenged to make their #Panel 61 with the following assessment. You can see how many of their paragraphs are responses to these questions posed.
What’s really neat is the variety of thought processes that the students depicted in their artwork, and the “buy in” from the students because they voted at the end to choose several for submission to your website. They got really excited about them and wanted to do very well. Before creating, I heard students talking about their ideas and how they see certain legacies of the Migration in their communities, in their schools, etc. It is very meaningful.