Notasulga Students Become Birmingham Citizens Living in 1963

Written by Blake Evans, CLA Graduate Assistant.

Separate and Unequal Issue GuideOn February 20 and 27, 2015, students at Notasulga High School pondered some of the most difficult, challenging, and influential decisions made in the past one-hundred years.  Is the potential sacrifice worth the achievement of equality?  Ninth and tenth grade students assumed the roles of citizens living in 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, to answer that very question.  Using the “Separate and Unequal in 1963: How Can We Create a Fair Society?” issue guide created by the David Mathews Center for Civic Life and Alabama Public Television, students pondered the following three options to overcome the issue of racial inequality in historic Birmingham: 1. Use legislation to make a difference; 2. Develop relationships with others to create a movement; and 3. Take immediate action through boycotts and demonstrations.

Towards the beginning of each forum, students deliberated on the meaning of equality and the benefits of having it.  They then watched clips of a video developed by Alabama Public Television for Project C.  The video served as a reminder of life in 1960s Birmingham.  Next, the students were challenged to go back to January 1, 1963.  No longer were they high school students meeting for class.  Instead, they became citizens of a town distraught with racial inequality.  They were citizens meeting to discuss their options of achieving equality, a characteristic they unanimously agreed would improve society.

Notasulga High SchoolThe students deliberated by weighing their options and the consequences of their potential actions.  They knew they needed to take a stand, but they also knew that every action would cause an opposing reaction.  Many students considered the first option, taking legislative action, to be the best; however, others thought that option would require too much money to make a difference in the eyes of legislators.  Some students thought that building relationships could be the best way to create change.  They said this would mean spreading their message via fliers, word-of-mouth, and through local media outlets.  However, they pointed out that the downside to that approach could possibly be violence, especially since it would require public action.  Finally, many students thought the third approach was best, which was to demonstrate and promote boycotts and sit-ins.  They recognized that this could have an economic impact and could hurt the pockets of those in power, thereby forcing lawmakers to push for change.  They pointed out, though, that violence could come with this approach as well.
With each consideration, students had to weigh trade-offs.  Students do not usually weigh these kinds of consequences in terms of how it would have affected them as actual, boots-on-the-ground political activists.  Through their deliberations, students gained a greater appreciation of the sacrifice that was made by many to achieve the society that we live in today.  They realized that stepping into the shoes of others provides a different perspective than their own, and the ability to consider other opinions is essential to the significance of diversity and equality.

Special thanks to Coach Rogers at Notasulga High School for helping coordinate the forums!

Wonderful Wednesdays (November 12)

Written by Joy Porter, AU student and CCE Fellow.

image of people at Wonderful Wednesdays programUnfortunately, a few of our Wonderful Wednesday folks were under the weather this week, so we had a smaller group at the Porter Center Wednesday afternoon. However, on the bright side, our smaller group enabled us to all play one game together, which we can’t often manage with our larger group. We elected to play a card game called Phase 10 that’s grown in popularity with the Porter folks the last few weeks. In Phase 10, each player tries to get a certain combination (such as four cards of the same number) before their opponents do. After completing a certain combination, you graduate to a new combination (or phase) that you must acquire before your opponents acquire theirs. The winner, then, is the first person who completes all ten of the game’s phases before his or her opponents do. Our game got pretty competitive as everyone raced to finish their phases, and there was a good bit of good-natured ribbing as players were able to one-up their neighbors.

My favorite part of the afternoon, though, was the conversations we held over the game. As the game went on, we all shared stories— some happy and some sad, of games and childhoods and lost loved ones. The conversation flowed easily among our smaller group, and it really reminded me of how much I’ve grown to love Wonderful Wednesdays and the Porter neighborhood. It was a really beautiful way to spend an afternoon.

As much as I enjoyed our smaller group, though, I’ll admit it was a little strange to not see some familiar faces— hopefully everyone will be feeling better next week, and they’ll be able to join us for our next Wonderful Wednesday!

Words with Friends (November 3)

image from Words with Friends programWritten by Joy Porter, AU student and CCE Fellow.

This past Monday afternoon we found another way to incorporate a fun word game—with Pictionary! We had about eight fourth through sixth graders join us that Monday, so we split them into teams of two. From that point, we gave each team two minutes to have one person draw a word and have their teammates guess the word. If they guessed the word correctly and still had time remaining, they were able to draw another word in the hopes of gaining more points. Each word was worth one point, and the object was to have amassed as many points as possible by the end of our game.

It really was fun to see how competitive the kids got with it and how engaged they were in the game. Everyone clamored for the chance to be their team’s ‘draw-er,’ and, I have to say, the Ridgecrest neighborhood has some seriously talented artists. I was really impressed by the way these kids were able to creatively come up with ways to convey their word. For example, next to the half-spider (that was guessed within a few seconds), one of the kids drew a phone and circled the start button for the word ‘start.’ I never would have thought to do it that way. I probably would’ve tried a badly-drawn race or maze or something instead. These kids have a lot of talent and creativity, and it was fun to see it manifested that afternoon.

In the end, ‘Team 21’ eked out a 14-12 over ‘Team Callie,’ but it looks as though we might have a rematch the next week, so stay tuned!

Words with Friends (October 27)

Written by Joy Porter, AU student and CCE Fellow.

image from Words with Friends eventThis week we had a little holiday celebration, done the most fun way possible— with word games, of course! So, in honor of Halloween and Thanksgiving, we gave the kids pieces of paper and challenged them to come up with new words from the letters in ‘Happy Halloween and Thanksgiving.’ It quickly turned into a competition to see who could come up with the most words in number and the most inventive words, with prizes awarded to the winners. Once everyone came up with all the words they could think of, we compiled a list of some of their words on this poster board. The kids seemed to have a lot of fun racking their brains to come up with new words and crowed in triumph when they thought of a word that their friends hadn’t thought of yet.

During the rest of our time together, we also worked on some science homework that some of the girls brought, learning all about different kinds of energy. Finally, we also spent some time talking about the trick-or-treating that they would be doing on Friday, as well as the costumes that they had planned for the Halloween festivities that weekend.

Wonderful Wednesdays (October 29)

Written by Joy Porter, AU student and CCE Fellow.

image from Wonderful Wednesdays programIt was a hauntingly fun Wednesday afternoon at Porter Center— to get into the holiday spirit, we played the crowd-favorite Bingo. Ms. Virginia Scoggins is a serious Bingo player and was nice enough to loan us her set of cards. Ms. Scoggins is the one pictured in the witch’s cloak and hat. She loves Halloween and says she always goes all out for the holiday. She told me she normally wins at least one costume contest each year, which no wonder with the rest of her costume, which involved painting her face green, wearing a fake nose, and a skull-topped walking cane. We also asked the rest of the Porter folks what they would be doing for the holiday—many of them planned on watching scary movies or spending it with their children and grandchildren.

And it wouldn’t be Halloween Bingo without some treats for our Wonderful Wednesday folks, so everyone randomly selected a prize, getting anything from an arts and crafts set and lip balm to a dinner for two at Cracker Barrel. Our Halloween Bingo was a lot of fun, and I hope we’ll be able to do something equally special for our other holidays.

Words with Friends (October 20)

Written by Joy Porter, AU student and CCE Fellow.

image from Words with Friends programOur ‘Words with Friends’ on the 20th was definitely our most high-energy afternoon so far—we normally have six to eight girls come join us on Monday afternoons. This afternoon, we had twenty-five fifth to seventh grade boys. It was definitely a change from our normal afternoon, but it was also a lot of fun!

We didn’t quite have enough Scrabble games for everyone to play, so we set up stations for each of the boys to participate in. One of these stations had a pretty competitive game of Scrabble. Another had the fall worksheets that we had worked on with our regular attendees a few weeks earlier, and in the last station we played a spelling game. Every so often, we had the guys switch stations so that everyone was able to experience each of the games. All too soon, our hour was up, and it was time for the guys to go. Even though everyone who came this week was new, hopefully we’ll see them again in the next few weeks!

Wonderful Wednesdays (October 8)

Written by Joy Porter, AU student and CCE Fellow.

image from Wonderful Wednesdays programThe Return of Bingo!

Back by popular demand, Bingo has returned to Wonderful Wednesdays at the Porter neighborhood!

After weeks of lobbying, this past week we once again played Bingo. As you can see from the photograph, the game is a big hit with the Porter folks, with one of our regular attendees, Ms. Virginia Scoggins, providing the Bingo cards from her own collection. Everyone played at least two (with some handling as many as three or four) cards, as they sought to best their neighbors and win the awesome prizes provided by the Auburn Public Housing Authority and various community image from Wonderful Wednesdays programsponsors. After all of our rounds, everyone won at least once, taking home different rewards such as baseball caps, water bottles, and backpacks. Our biggest winner of the afternoon was Ms. Ruth Lockhart, who won three different rounds, much to the chagrin of some of her competitors.

All in all, it was a really fun afternoon. Unfortunately, we won’t hold Wonderful Wednesdays this week, but we’ll be back the week after!