The classrooms in Estes Middle School were transformed into an ersatz museum exhibit focusing on the Civil War as a final project for the students. The students were tasked with creating an original collection of primary documents (photographs, artifacts, documents) or work of art or model that highlighted an event, person, or issue related to the war. Through the exhibits, the students addressed the question, “How do we remember history in a way that allows for multiple perspectives and experiences, dispels myths and inaccuracies, and shows a full understanding of an event, person, or issues?"
Students circulated among the rooms that were grouped according to themes: battles (Bull Run, Gettysburg, Antietam) sectional crisis (Missouri Compromise, Fugitive Slave Act, Harper’s Ferry Raid), abolition movement and emancipation (Free Soilers, Frederick Douglas, Sojourner Truth, 13, 14, 15th Amendments) experience and stories (Northern vs Southern soldiers' experiences, conscription, draft riots, spies, Asian American and Mexican Americans in the Civil War), documentation (recipes, diaries, photographs, music), political, military and prominent figures (Lincoln, Grant, Lee, Sherman, Blackwell, Smalls) and lastly, the issues and questions that still remain (monuments, Juneteeth, Jan. 6, Charlottesville). Some students opted for a traditional poster board approach replete with details and quotes, other students used technology with a laptop interface, then others created 3d models and renderings.
The students' work showed an in-depth understanding of various components of the Civil War as they explained to their peers and teachers their engaging displays. Each display ensured that the audience took away a key piece of information. As the students moved from room to room, they discussed their findings in hushed tones, jotted down notes, and sampled some food from the era. This forum provided an excellent means to drill down on a painful period of U.S. history.