8th Grade students research, write, create, and publish works that astound their teachers.

The Harlem Renaissance, a period that influenced everything from politics to painting here in America, has been described as a “blossoming of African American culture.”

Earlier this month, Prairie’s 8th Grade students grew in both knowledge and creativity as they studied the rich cross-disciplinary activity of the Renaissance and how it influenced modern day society.

“We started talking about this time in history that is largely overlooked and has a lingering history in modern day America, especially if you look at the political history and cultural influence,” says Dr. Gardner Seawright, Social Studies Teacher.

In recent years, the English and Social Studies Departments had collaborated on a Lewis and Clark Unit, but Seawright and English Teacher Tameka Tate wanted to dig into something different this year.

Together, they created the Interdisciplinary Harlem Renaissance Unit – a project that also involved the Art and Music Departments – and tasked students with researching, writing, and creating individual websites unique to their topics.

“In my class, we did a lot of the literary works,” Tate says, but also “background on photographers and pieces of art. They came to know how influential they were, but not just that. How is it still relevant? How is it still being seen in modern life?”

Both teachers were surprised by the contemporary connections the students made.

“There are so many paths they could have taken,” Seawright says. “When you look at the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance it shows up in hip-hop, modern jazz, theater, journalism, political thought, activism, and fashion. The list goes on and on. The specifics they were able to unearth were impressive.”

“There were students who thought outside the box and things we didn’t even think of,” Tate says.

Seawright noted a student who researched medical history and how segregated practices were overhauled during the Renaissance.

“I think a lot of [the students] found joy in digging and doing an actual research project where they’re making claims and arguments using historical research,” says Seawright.

Tate says students were pleased – and even a little bit surprised – with the quality of the finished product.

“To really see them make it their own was phenomenal,” she says.

During National Teacher Appreciation Week (May 2nd – 6th), Prairie is celebrating its faculty, educators like Gardner Seawright and Tameka Take who routinely go out of their way to know, value, support, and challenge their students. Were you or your child impacted by a Prairie teacher. Send them a note!

Listen as Middle School Teachers Tameka Tate and Gardner Seawright share their experience collaborating on the Harlem Renaissance and how beneficial hands-on, project-based learning is for students.