Rokeby Museum offers teachers and students a variety of learning experiences — site visits, two programs, and two educational kits. A school program overview is available by clicking on the image at right.
School and homeschool visits
Rokeby Museum welcomes school and homeschool students and teachers to experience Free & Safe: The Underground Railroad in Vermont or to attend one of our on-site programs. Student groups may add a hike on the trail or a scavenger hunt in the outbuildings and are welcome to have lunch at picnic tables in the yard. Visits must be reserved in advance. Admission for school groups (15 minimum) is $5 per student and teacher; regular student admission is $8.
The Museum’s most in-depth treatment of the Underground Railroad is the exhibit, Free & Safe, which introduces students to Simon and Jesse, two fugitives sheltered at Rokeby in the 1830s. The exhibit traces their stories from slavery to freedom, introduces the abolitionist Robinson family who called Rokeby home for nearly 200 years, and explores the turbulent decades leading up to the Civil War. Two audio visual “experiences” help students connect with Simon and Jesse as real people, and historic texts, images, and documents combine to make their stories come vividly to life. Free & Safe contains many lessons in its 2,500 square feet, and teachers will find many ways to approach it.
Pre-/Post-Visit and Exhibit Support Materials
Free & Safe focuses on Simon and Jesse, two fugitives who were sheltered at Rokeby in the 1830s. It traces their stories from slavery to freedom, introduces the abolitionist Robinsons who called Rokeby home for nearly 200 years, and explores the turbulent decades leading up to the Civil War. The exhibit begins by providing context on slavery, the domestic slave trade, and the state of Maryland, from which Simon escaped. It ends with a large gallery exploring the history of the abolitionist movement nationally and in Vermont. In between, your students will encounter and get to know Simon, Jesse, and the Robinsons. Free & Safe is rich with lessons and learning for students, and we recommend that teachers preview it before bringing their classes if possible.
This lesson introduces students to the concept of primary source documents and to specific primary source documents—two letters from Oliver Johnson to Rowland T. Robinson that record the journey of Simon as he escaped from Maryland and sought freedom in the North. The letters come from the collection at Rokeby Museum and are used in Free & Safe: The Underground Railroad in Vermont, the exhibit you will visit.
This lesson takes place during the visit to Free & Safe at Rokeby Museum; it includes some inquiry and discussion questions, as well as connections to the pre-visit lesson. Students may work singly or in pairs to complete the question worksheet as they view the exhibit.
You may want to copy the map included (showing Simon’s path from Maryland to Pennsylvania and then turning to head for Vermont) for students to have on the visit.
You may want to gather your students for a discussion here at Rokeby after they see exhibit—the picnic tables in the yard are available or you may gather in the Center if the weather is bad. Engaging students while the experience is still fresh may draw more from them.
This lesson will act as a closing for students’ visit to Free & Safe at Rokeby Museum and will put their in-depth look at Simon into context. It will also help them see slaves as individuals. Initiate a discussion about Simon using the worksheets students completed during their visit to Free & Safe. Make sure they understand that Simon had been sold South and why that was such a powerful incentive for him to seek freedom in Canada or the North. Although most slaves did not attempt to escape, they did not necessarily accept their status passively. In fact, they resisted in many ways, the most extreme of which was running away.
This lesson introduces students to Jesse, one of the two fugitive slaves sheltered at Rokeby who are featured in Free & Safe: The Underground Railroad in Vermont, and to the Elliott family of North Carolina, who claimed Jesse as a slave. Students will examine documents that tell us about Jesse’s life in slavery and will learn how historians use such documents to understand the past. Your students will see these documents again when you tour Free & Safe.
“Eating local” is all the rage today, but when the Robinsons lived at Rokeby, it was the only way! Students begin in the old kitchen with a discussion of what they had for breakfast and how it compares with what the Robinsons may have eaten. Students then head out to the farmstead and explore where the components of their — and the Robinsons’ — breakfasts would have been found in the nineteenth century.
Appropriate for grades 3 to 6. This program is held on the grounds of the Museum only. Program fee for school groups (15 minimum) is $5 per student; regular student admission is $8 per student.
Turn your students into “history detectives” as they meet Simon, Jesse, Jeremiah Snowden, and others — all fugitives from slavery who were sheltered at Rokeby. Students will examine the evidence — letters from the Museum collection — to discover the Underground Railroad in Vermont. A CD with guides to the Robinsons and Rokeby, historical background, copies of letters, and student activities is yours to keep.
Appropriate for grades 4 to 8. The program is offered in the classroom at $50 per presentation plus mileage. It is available on site to groups of 15 to 20 at $5 per student.
This multimedia kit is packed with resources for your classroom. It presents the stirring words of America’s radical abolitionists and introduces middle and high school students to their principles, tactics, and ideas. Each of the eight speeches — recorded by professional actors — opens the door on a chapter of abolitionist history. The teachers’ guide includes historical and biographical background, text of the recordings, discussion questions, student activities and worksheets, and primary source documents. The kit also includes exhibit panels, period illustrations, and a selection of books for further reading. Excellent enrichment for Vermont and American history, speech, and civics courses.
Two-week rental is $30 (you pay the cost of return) if we ship the kit; $20 if you pick it up.
Did you know that Frederick Douglass toured Vermont early in his career? This kit provides the speech he delivered in Ferrisburgh in 1843, a recording of the speech (by a professional actor), newspaper coverage of the convention he addressed, discussion questions, student activities, and fifteen copies of Douglass’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Appropriate for middle and high school courses in Vermont and American history, civics, and journalism.
Two-week rental is $25 (you pay the cost of return) if we ship the kit; $20 if you pick it up.
For more information about visits to the museum, pre-/post- and site-visit activities, programs, or our educational kits, please call the museum at 802.877.3406 or e-mail Jane Williamson.