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U.S. History road trip leads to reflection and learning

Civil Rights TourEighth-grade students from the Advanced Learning Academy at the Fox Tech campus took their learning outside of the classroom, and out of state, when they participated in the school’s first-ever Civil Rights Tour in late November. The trip, which was part of the students’ U.S. History course, took students from Texas to Mississippi to Alabama, visiting five cities along the way, and was documented on Instragram

“Many of the civil rights issues and struggles the students will be studying in class within the historical context look back to other periods of U.S history, like post-Civil War era and Reconstruction,” said Kathy Bieser, principal at Advanced Learning Academy. “This trip gives students the chance to also look at modern-day examples of human rights issues, abuses, injustices and other relevant topics.”

The group left San Antonio on the Monday before the Thanksgiving holiday and headed to Austin, where they toured The Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum, as well as the University of Texas at Austin. Then the students began their journey out-of-state, heading to Jackson, Mississippi, where they spent the night before visiting the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum first thing the next morning. 

“The museum was fantastic,” said Meghan Harrington, U.S. History teacher who led the field trip. “The neatest thing about it was the fact that our tour guides lived through and participated in the Civil Rights Movement themselves. Our students were able to interreact with someone who personally participated in the Civil Rights Movement.”

The group then continued on to Alabama, visiting a number of historical sites including the 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, Legacy Museum & Memorial, Rosa Parks Museum, and the Civil Rights Memorial Center. The last stop of the trip was the Selma Pettus Bridge, which was the site of the Bloody Sunday conflict when in 1965 armed police attacked and brutally beat Civil Rights Movement demonstrators. Students had the chance to walk across the bridge just as protestors had more than 50 years ago, holding handmade signs with personal messages.

Some of the site visits were intense, according to student Symfini Dorris. 

“The Lynching Memorial was the most impactful part of the trip for me,” she said. “It has all these names of people who had been lynched in the U.S.”

To help the students process the serious topics they were presented with over the course of the trip, Harrington said that time was set aside each day for them to gather in small groups with a teacher and reflect on what they experienced. 

Eighty-two students, which is almost the entire eighth-grade class, participated in the week-long trip, which was part of a larger project-based learning unit. The students will choose a historical issue they explored on the trip and compare it to a modern day issue. They will present their finding in writings and artifacts during an exhibition in January.

The students were chaperoned by 10 parents, two administrators and eight teachers. It was Bieser’s goal to make the trip accessible to each and every student. 

“All kids travel, or no kids travel,” she said. “This isn’t about whether or not you have money for the trip; we approach it as a community and we have to make this trip possible for everyone.”


More than half of the funding needed for the class trip was earned through student fundraising efforts. 

“We learned about these topics before we went on this trip, so we had a little bit of an idea of what we would be seeing,” said Symfini. “But this trip was more than I expected; it exceeded my expectations.”

View News 4 San Antonio coverage of the Advanced Learning Academy's Civil Rights trip


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