Student groups from all four of Rockingham’s high schools participated in the "Farmville Tour Guides" project that immersed them in a pivotal chapter of Virginia’s civil rights history by leading an interactive walking tour of Farmville, Virginia. However, rather than listen to a tour guide’s interpretation of this story, these students conducted their own research, discovered stories of their own interest, and presented this information to their peers on a student-led field trip.
The project was funded by the Rockingham Educational Foundation, Inc. and was organized in cooperation with the Moton Museum in Farmville, Virginia. This museum is housed in the former R.R. Moton High School that previously served the black students of Prince Edward County. Virginia’s previous segregation policy not only separated students by race, but it also resulted in disproportionate funding that produced black schools that were overcrowded, inadequate, and unequal. On April 23,1951, a sixteen-year-old Junior named Barbara Johns led her R.R. Moton classmates to walk out in protest of these glaring inequalities. This historic demonstration evolved into a class-action lawsuit that was later combined with four other school desegregation cases that went before the Supreme Court in 1954 as Brown v. the Board of Education.
The “Farmville Tour Guides Project” enabled our students to share this inspirational story on the actual grounds where these events unfolded. It’s also important to note that our trip took place on Thursday, April 23, 2015 - the 64th anniversary of the R.R. Moton Student Strike! Securing this particular date also enabled us to invite a number of former Moton students to join us for the day - one of which was Mrs. Joan Johns Cobbs, the younger sister of strike leader, Barbara Johns. The field trip ended with a Q & A session with these guests and private tour of the Moton Museum.
The project also demonstrated how Google Classroom can reach students beyond the walls of the traditional classroom. Given that this project involved students and teachers from all four high schools, Google Classroom enabled everyone involved to collaborate as well as share news, updates, and resources related to the project.
Beau Dickenson, RCPS Social Studies Coordinator, worked with history teachers and students in the high schools to prepare for and conduct the day’s events. He expressed his extreme pleasure with the efforts of the students who traveled to Farmville to participate in this immersion into history, “This was one of my best days [as an educator]. The ERHS group that reenacted Barbara Johns' speech actually brought a tear to her sister's eye while she sat in the audience. I was on cloud nine all day long.”