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Age Range: Grade 9 through Grade 12 (High School)
Overview and Purpose: Students will get to experience segregation first hand in this lesson. They will be arbitrarily divided and one side will be treated better than the other. Experiments like these have been known to get out of hand if they go on too long, so this one is designed to last less than a class period. There is a time at the end of the lesson to debrief and talk about the experience.
Objective: The student will be able to explain how segregation affected people.
Bulletin board or butcher paper
A way to attach the paper so it divides the room in half lengthwise
Bag with red and blue colored marbles in it (one for each student)
Put the paper up before the students come in the room when you are ready to begin a study on the history of segregation in this country. The paper should come just above eye height for most students, so they cannot see over to the other side. Stop the paper at the end of the students' desks. Leave the front of the room open so you can teach to both sides.
The half of the room with the classroom door should have desks, chairs, nice decorations, etc.
The other half of the room should have chairs, bare walls, and only a few textbooks.
Have the students draw a marble when they come in. If the marble is blue have them sit on the side by the door, if it is red have them sit on the other side. Explain that they cannot talk to the people on the other side of the paper. They are separate.
Teach class with preference given to the blue marble students. They may ask or answer questions and they have the materials needed to complete the assignments. The red side must only listen and sit quietly. They will have to share materials and those materials should be as shoddy as you can make them.
Take the paper down the last ten or fifteen minutes of class and discuss the experience. How did each side feel? Were the red marble people angry or frustrated? Connect the lesson to our nation's history of segregation. Have the students draw parallels between the two.
Discrimination is a very emotional topic. Make sure your classroom can handle the atmosphere this lesson will create and that students are able to see it as a classroom experience and not a suggestion of how to treat others. Giving your principal a heads up might also be a good idea.