Photo of a wall mural with portraits of abolitionists, QR codes, and a six-word bio for each person displayed.

Grade 8 students recently learned about the abolitionist movement that arose from the passing of the New Fugitive Slave law in 1850, during the time period leading up to the Civil War. As their final project, students were tasked with choosing an abolitionist to research and create biographies. Their work is now on display in Middle School for other students to interact with and see. Middle School Social Studies teacher Ms. Beth Gryczewski chose this lesson to show students that throughout history, as people encounter injustice, “they find ways, however small, to make a positive impact on lives, even if only a few, and to fight back against that injustice.”

Illustrated by a photo of the individual, each biography has two main components: a six-word bio and a QR code, leading to a longer audio narrative by the student. The six-word story writing method is often credited to Ernest Hemingway, in which a story is artfully told through what is written and what is left out for the reader to imagine. Ms. Gryczewski chose the six-word story method to challenge the students to distill their research into words or a phrase most representative of their chosen abolitionist. With curiosities piqued as viewers read the six-word bios, QR codes linked to audio narratives offer a more in-depth experience.

Throughout the project, students displayed knowledge of historical facts and demonstrated a deeper understanding of each abolitionist’s unique story and layers. “I hope they learn that they don’t have to accept injustice, but also they don’t have to do GIANT deeds to have a large and lasting impact,” says Ms. Gryczewski.