I have used several interactive lessons from the Zinn Education Project, but one that has stood out the most this year has been the Cherokee Seminole Removal Role Play.
In this lesson, the students stepped back to 1830 and were challenged to take on roles of five groups deeply conflicted over the Congressional bill to implement President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act. Putting their own biases aside they were expected to argue the position from groups such as a Northern missionary, a Black Seminole, and a Southern plantation owner. Students gained not online history content knowledge but an understanding of the complexity of the situation and how economic gains perpetuate our country’s institutionalized racism and public policy.
The author of this activity, Bill Bigelow, always consistently crafts interactive lessons that are both rigorous and engaging, and the Cherokee Seminole Removal Role Play is no different. The teacher portion includes thorough background information to prep the students, essential questions and instructions regarding the logistics of transitioning students between the different group tasks.
The role play is a powerful and relevant lesson that has become a mainstay of my U.S. history curriculum and is one that my students described as one of their favorite activities of the year.