Awardees / The NEA Foundation
During one of several lessons on the Underground Railroad, Melissa Ladd asks, “Now that you know more about a slave’s life on the plantation, would you stay or would try to escape? Why?”
To illustrate the hard road to freedom, she divides the students into teams, equips each team with a lantern and a sack of supplies, and tells them to remove their shoes for a historical simulation of slaves’ experiences. Each team rolls dice that allow them to advance to stations representing a field, a cabin, or a stop on the Underground Railway, which will take them to the northern border and a new life. The odds are against them and the teams are sent back to the plantation or to another station where they reroll the dice to attempt escape again.
Periodically, Ladd stops the action for a “climate check” and each student writes down one word that describes a feeling, smell, taste, sight, or touch. After the simulation, she asks each team to write a tweet describing their overall experience.
Other learning comes from primary source analysis of historical photographs and paintings, comparing modern day slavery worldwide with slavery in the United State prior to the Civil War, and reading true stories, such as Henry’s Freedom Box.
Ladd has been teaching for 12 years. She earned a BS in Early Childhood Education, an MA of Reading Instruction, and a PhD of School Improvement, Science Education Endorsement, and Specialist of Early Childhood Endorsement from the University of West Georgia.
She has served as President of the Coweta Association of Educators and has lobbied on several issues at the state level.