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TEACHER LETTERS
  |   Maurice Chappell  |   Donna Vincent  |   Kim Brown  |  


LETTER FROM LYNDA UMFRESS

Dear Colleagues:

Passage to Freedom is a fascinating account of the Underground Railroad and the real people who undertook and facilitated the journeys to freedom. The documentary offers many instructional opportunities for teachers in all disciplines and would be appropriate for most levels of learners.

Obviously the social studies teacher can make extensive use of many of the segments as background for their discussions about the impact of slavery in terms of legality, morality, and economics. The use of historical Kentucky maps and on-site interviews provide superior materials for a focus on the Commonwealth's geography and possible sites for student field trips.

As a teacher of American literature, I certainly plan to use the film as background for our studies of Harriet Beecher Stowe and other authors of that time period. A connection to modern day literature can be made with the segment devoted to the real "Beloved."

Writing opportunities abound on all grade levels. Students will want to voice their opinions about the moral issues of freedom vs. slavery. Another writing assignment could involve providing directions along and rules for surviving on the Underground Railroad. In terms of creative writing, the documentary could spark student's ideas for creating poetry, dialogues, and dramatic sketches about the perils of escaping from slavery.

In addition, humanities teachers will want to incorporate the segments about spirituals as part of the language of a culture. I know students will enjoy researching the lyrics and rhythms of these songs and conjecturing about the dual role of this music as both comforter and secret signal.

To me, the most interesting aspect of the documentary is its emphasis on the real people associated with the slavery to freedom movement. The biographical information provides a perfect opportunity for additional student research. In particular, my journalism students will be interested in the extensive use of newspapers as sources for research and the importance of creating records for future generations. There are many more questions to be answered about these brave people, and I know my students would enjoy the challenge of re-discovering the lives of the "passengers."

Passage to Freedom is a wonderful and welcome addition to any school's video library. Its learning opportunities are limitless.

Lynda Umfress
Teacher of English, Journalism, Multimedia, and Gifted and Talented Classes
Bourbon County High School

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Last Updated: Tuesday, 09-May-2006 10:39:20 EDT