The Student Achievement Fair at the Virginia School Boards Association’s annual conference in Williamsburg, Virginia featured a special exhibit by students from East Rockingham High School. Seniors Gabrielle Dean, Jordan Secrist, and Caleb Thompson prepared an exhibit titled “The Flipped Field Trip: A Student‐led Tour of Farmville, Virginia.” These students previously participated in the Farmville Tour Guides Project that enabled RCPS students to plan a student‐led tour of various civil rights landmarks in Farmville, Virginia. They not only shared the Farmville story with conference attendees, but they also testified about the educational value of making a field trip student‐led. They were accompanied on both trips by Diana Kemper (ERHS History Teacher) and Beau Dickenson (RCPS Social Studies Coordinator).
On April 23rd, 1951, sixteen‐year‐old Barbara Johns led the students of Farmville’s all‐black R.R. Moton High School to go on strike against inadequate and unequal schools in Prince Edward County, Virginia. The NAACP filed suit on the students’ behalf, and the case later became one of the five lawsuits that collectively went before the Supreme Court in 1954 as Brown v. the Board of Education.
Last fall, Mr. Douglas L. Guynn, Esq. and Beam Brothers Trucking funded a REFI grant that enabled RCPS students to participate in a “student‐led field trip” of this pivotal chapter of civil rights history in Virginia. This required participants to select a specific component of the Farmville story, conduct in‐depth research, and then present it to their peers at a historic site related to their presentation. For example, the students from East Rockingham High School who researched Barbara Johns told her story while standing on the very auditorium stage where she called forth the 1951 student‐strike.
In addition to the historic surroundings, our students had the honor of being accompanied by former Moton students who had actually participated in the 1951 strike (one of which was Mrs. Joan Johns‐Cobb – the younger sister of the late Barbara Johns). The trip culminated with a Q&A discussion with our honored guests as well as a private tour of the Moton Museum – a civil rights museum housed within the walls of the former R.R. Moton High School.
See highlights from the 2015 experience: Project Immerses Students in Virginia History
RCPS students not only interacted with actual pioneers of the civil rights movement, but more importantly, they further advanced the Moton student cause by adding their own voices to this ongoing narrative. One teacher chaperone commented, “My students were truly empowered by this experience.” The acting Director of the Moton Museum, Mr. Justin Reid, commented to the Daily News‐Record, “We’re hoping that this will inspire other school systems. It’s the type of learning that we want 21st century students to do.” With this sentiment in mind, we plan to continue this program so that future students have the opportunity to similarly experience history in such a living way.
Please visit the following website for more information: http://farmvilletourguides.rockingham.k12.va.us/