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Young Booker T. Washington had a dream. That dream was to use the resources at his disposal to earn the money necessary to get an education that would allow him and others to become financially secure. This lesson based on the picture book “Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington” by Jabari
Asim challenges young students to make connections between history and economic concepts.
The activities in this lesson are based on the early life of Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), who as a young slave growing up in Virginia, was prohibited from learning how to read and write. After Emancipation life was still difficult. Moving to West Virginia and working in a salt furnace and a coal mine were physically challenging jobs, especially for a child. Amazingly he found time to attend school after work and discovered a quest for knowledge. He soon heard of a boarding school called Hampton Institute that was offering to educate black students and he was determined to attend. His supportive friends and family gave him what little resources they had and he set off on the 500-mile journey that would involve hunger, exhaustion, and poverty. Overcoming these obstacles, he arrived at his destination with 50 cents in his pocket and his future ahead of him.
1. Introduce the lesson by telling the students they will be learning about a person who was born a slave around the time of the Civil War. As a slave he was not allowed to learn to read, but once he got his freedom he knew that he had to get a good education no matter how hard he had to work to get it. Teachers of older students may want to note that Booker T. Washington not only worked to pay for his education, but that his acquisition of new skills and experiences through his pursuit of education resulted in his having contributed to the economic growth of the United States. He founded the Tuskegee Institute, which provided an education for many African-Americans.
2. Read the book Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington by Jabari Asim, Little, Brown and Company, 2012 to the students. (This takes between five and seven minutes.) If the book is unavailable, the teacher may share this brief biography with the students. Young Booker T. Washington a Dozen Facts (See edited attachment)
3. Introduce the lesson by displaying the visual Productive Resources Visual "Fifty Cents and a Dream." Review and discuss the contents with students. (See edited attachment)
Possible student responses include:
4. Tell the students they will now be using the information they just learned to complete an activity based on the jobs that Booker T. Washington had when he was a boy. This activity may be done as a worksheet and/or an interactive "drag and drop."
5. Distribute the activity sheets or instruct the students to complete the activity on the computer. Students may work in pairs or small groups.
6. Review the directions with the students. Explain that some of the words in the word box can fit in several of the categories. However, each word may only be used once. Students should be prepared to defend their choices. This can lead to some interesting discussion. For example, is a “window washer” a person who cleans windows or a tool used to help clean them? Common responses may be found here: Productive Resources Common Responses.
Conclude the lesson by asking the students what capital resources Booker T. Washington would need once he became a teacher. Possible answers include: books, school room, desks, etc. Then ask the students what human resources, other than teachers, are necessary to run a school. Possible answers might include: principal, librarian, cafeteria workers, custodians, school nurses, etc.
Prior to this extension lesson create the required job cards on card stock. These may be found here.
Introduce this activity by telling the students that Booker T. Washington, a human resource, had many jobs when he was young. Ask the students if they know what a job is. Job can be defined as “A piece of work usually done on order at an agreed-upon rate. Also a paid position of regular employment.”
Hold up the prepared job cards and read them one at a time telling the students that these were the jobs Booker T. Washington had when he was young. Discuss what kind of work each of these jobs entailed.
Distribute the cards to seven of the students and ask them to come to the front of the room. Propose the following scenarios and ask the students to rearrange themselves to reflect the ranking order. Allow for discussion as this is a creative problem solving activity and there are no right or wrong answers.
Possible rankings include:
Challenge more advanced students to use to cards to do the following tasks:
A print copy of this activity may be found here.
To test for student understanding, make copies of the activity sheet Productive Resources Assessment, distribute, and provide writing tools. Colored pencils and/or markers are optional. Read the directions to the students: "Draw a picture in each box that represents the resource that might be found at one of the locations where Booker T. Washington worked. You may come up with your own ideas or use one of the suggestions at the bottom of the page." Check finished work for correctness. Students' work will display well on a bulletin board titled, "Learning About Productive Resources."