Student Reflections on Lessons from Birmingham


Last Thursday, the fifth graders took their study of the Civil Rights to Birmingham.  After learning about the girls who were killed in the 1963 church bombing (via viewing and discussion of Spike Lee’s “Four Little Girls”), the students visited the actual church and toured the Civil Rights Museum.  Their day also consisted of a visit to a synagogue and the McWane Science Center.  The reflections below are samples from the many great reflections shared by our fifth grade students, and they represent their thoughts and wisdom from this field trip.

D: Yesterday, the 5th grade traveled to the marvelous “Magic City.” Personally, the experience was one to remember. It is so amazing how education and fun can blend together so perfectly. My emotions were filtered with joy, sorrow, and hope. It is incredible to have the opportunity to embark on a journey to the Civil Rights Movement with other Davis Academy students, or “my other family.” Over the trip, I made many connections to how Jewish citizens, like me, were treated and how African Americans lived life in despair. I saw death threats to Jewish people that brought me a feeling I had never had before. Hearing this tightened my throat; I was crying, but my eyes could not produce any tears. On a lighter note, the Temple Emanuel made me feel comfortable, like I was at home. I learned new things on a deeper level that I then taught my parents and my brother. The remarkable architecture in the temple made my jaw drop down to the floor; it was truly astonishing. Also, the McWayne Science Center was one of those places that had me thinking “too much stuff, not enough time.” From cool rides to man-made tornadoes, there is only one way to describe the place: pure awesomeness. Overall, the trip was great, thought provoking, and made me look at life with a new, fresh view. Birmingham, Alabama, is certainly a place I would want to travel to again with my family to show them the Civil Rights Museum and all of freedom signs on the streets.

K: Imagine hearing an explosion noise and then everything turning pitch black. That is what many people experienced Sunday morning September 15, 1963, at the 16th Street Baptist Church. That day four little girls were killed. When I was in Birmingham, each step I took towards the 16th Street Baptist Church felt as if the girl’s spirits were still in there. Before we went to the church, we went to the Civil Rights Museum. I saw many things that changed my views on Civil Rights. For example, I saw a model of the freedom riders bus and how so many people risked their lives for others.  Also, Denise, one of the four little girls, was honored with the outfit she wore and the stone that was embedded in her skull. I thought that it was very kind of Denise’s family to donate some of her belongings. The museum should have lots of gratitude. The trip to Birmingham was a life changing experience.

G: Yesterday in Birmingham I felt a slap of reality.  I realized that I was extremely lucky; lucky to go to any school I want, to have all of my rights, and to be free to dream of whatever I want.  Going to Davis is awesome. We never face bullies or have anyone tell us that who we are is wrong.  This struck me when I was sitting in a pew at the 16th Street Baptist Church. After learning about the four little girls, I looked down at my seat and realized they could have sat where I was sitting. Tears welled up in my eyes as I thought of those beautiful, innocent little girls.  They lost their lives because they wanted their rights.  They dreamed of the day when nothing was separated.  I love my life and would never change anything, but I wish I had been there to help those four little girls.  It was truly befuddling to me to think about our “free” country as it was then.

F: The Thursday I went to Birmingham is a day I will definitely not forget. When we first arrived, our grade went to Temple Emanu-El. I felt that it was a spectacular way to have started the day. My favorite part about the temple was getting to speak at the bimah where Rabbi Graffman once stood. It was an honor for me because he was very involved in civil rights, and despite all the threats he received, he stayed strong. Going to the 16th Street Baptist Church was very emotional. To me sitting in the church where the four little girls were was sad. My favorite part of the Civil Rights Museum was the model of the black and white classrooms. To conclude the trip to Birmingham, we went to the Mcwane Science Center, which was very hands-on and a lot of fun. Overall, I had a splendid time on the trip to Birmingham.

5 thoughts on “Student Reflections on Lessons from Birmingham”

  1. As a Davis teacher as well as a Birmingham native, raised at temple Emanuel and married by Rabbi
    Grafman, I am proud that our students are exposed to the history and significance of this community. Well done!

  2. I’m impressed by the unique way each of these students articulated their experience. Another great learning opportunity for Davis students that seamlessly blends our values with curriculum. They reflect, internalize and personalize…

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