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North American Slavery Through the Eyes of the Enslaved

A Project Based Learning Unit designed  for grades 5-8


  • Social Studies 
  • Language Arts 
  • Art and Music 
  • Technology (Language Arts)
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This unit was created by
Robert Curry
Piedmont Middle School
Berryessa Union School District
San Jose, CA




History/Social Studies

California History/Social Studies Content Standards 5.4.6 
the introduction of slavery into America, the responses of slave families to their condition, the ongoing struggle between proponents and opponents of slavery, and the gradual institutionalization of slavery in the South 

California Content Standards 5.6.7. 
how the ideals of the Declaration of Independence changed the way people viewed slavery

Grade 8
8.7 Students analyze the divergent paths of the American people in the South from 1800 to the mid-1800s and the challenges they faced.
1.  Describe the development of the agrarian economy in the South, identify the locations of the cotton-producing states, and discuss the significance of cotton and the cotton gin.
2.  Trace the origins and development of slavery; its effects on black Americans and on the region’s political, social, religious, economic, and cultural development; and identify the strategies that were tried to both overturn and preserve it (e.g., through the writings and historical documents on Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey).
3.  Examine the characteristics of white Southern society and how the physical environment influenced events and conditions prior to the Civil War.
4.  Compare the lives of and opportunities for free blacks in the North with those of free blacks in the South.

ISTE National Technology Standards

  1. Basic operations and concepts 
    • Students demonstrate a sound understanding of the nature and operation of technology systems. 
    • Students are proficient in the use of technology.
    3. Technology productivity tools
    • Students use technology tools to enhance learning, increase productivity, and promote creativity. 
    • Students use productivity tools to collaborate in constructing technology-enhanced models, prepare publications, and produce other creative works 

Understanding the Historical Contributions and Cultural Dimensions of Music 

3.4 Describe the influence of various cultures and historical events on musical forms and styles.
3.5 Describe the influences of various cultures on the music of the United States.


Language Arts

Language Arts>Writing>Research and Technology California Content Standards 

1.3 Use organizational features of printed text (e.g., citations, end notes, bibliographic references) to locate relevant information. 

1.4 Create simple documents by using electronic media and employing organizational features (e.g., passwords, entry and pull-down menus, word searches, the thesaurus, spell checks).

1.5 Use a thesaurus to identify alternative word choices and meanings. 

Language Arts>Writing California Content Standards

2.0 Using the writing strategies of grade five outlined in Writing Standard 1.0, students:
2.1 Write narratives: 
a. Establish a plot, point of view, setting, and conflict. 
b. Show, rather than tell, the events of the story.


3.0 Role and Development of the Visual Arts
3.1 Describe how local and national art galleries and museums contribute to the conservation of art.
3.2 Identify and describe various fine, traditional, and folk arts from historical periods worldwide. 

Diversity of the Visual Arts
3.3 Identify and compare works of art from various regions of the United States.
3.4 View selected works of art from a major culture and observe changes in materials and styles over a period of time.

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