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Gifted and Talented students learn about the Underground Railroad

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LAWTON, Okla._An important part of history was played out Wednesday for a group of Gifted and Talented elementary school students in Lawton.

Fourth and fifth graders learned what it would've been like to be a slave trying to get to freedom on the Underground Railroad. The students even created their own escape plan throughout the school building.

The class was broken up into two groups and each one had a leader, which is responsible for knowing all of the code words and signal knocks. Certain teachers acted as Station Masters and would hide the kids in their classrooms, while other administrators acted as slave catchers.

All of the students expressed interest while they used a different way to learn the history lesson, "The part I really liked about this was trying to see if the staff were out there looking for us and hiding places," said David Anya.

Jake Eshler said, "Trying to outrun the people that are catching us and making it to freedom."

Jesse Nebors described his favorite part, "My favorite part was ducking in the classrooms and scouting ahead."

Gifted and Talented teacher, Amanda Thomas, says the film "Twelve Years a Slave" sparked the idea for her class to learn about slavery and have the Underground Railroad project, "And I think that was one of the most interesting things the kids learned in the class was that Africans didn't just start as slaves in America. The first Africans were more like indentured servants."

Thomas said she likes to take a hands-on approach as much as possible when teaching, "I really like to put action with anything that's being introduced, new information. As long as there is an action there with it I think they're going to remember it much longer." The kids really enjoyed getting to act out a part of history and Thomas' goal was achieved.

"It was really fun because it taught me like how hard it is for the slaves to escape and then if they get caught, it's harder for them to escape again," said MacKenzie Franklin

Brooke Conklin learned how the railroad worked, "I didn't really understand how they were escaping and how hard it was and now I do."

None of the students were caught and they made it safely to Canada, which in this case was the Shoemaker Center. Thomas said the students started preparing for the project last week by mapping out routes through the building.

These gifted and talented students are from schools throughout the district. Another group will be reenacting the Underground Railroad tomorrow.

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