Daily activity 46: Harriet Tubman

May 25, 2020

This week’s theme:

Mysterious People: Inspirational Women

This week’s colouring in sheet:

Download and print this week’s colouring sheet here.

Fact of the day:

Harriet Tubman was an African American woman who escaped slavery and then helped nearly 300 other slaves escape to freedom too.

Resources list:

Youtube; cut out stars; Ladel or big spoon; paper and pens; card, scissors, glue or jar/bottle, water, glitter and torch; star cutouts, string, stapler/selotape; dressing-up clothes; bun cases, pens, glue; squares of different textured or coloured materials (card, foil, paper, magazines, cloth, etc).

Activity 1:

Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in the USA, but in 1849 she made a stunning escape. Later she returned to guide nearly 300 other slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was a network of helpful people, safe houses (called ‘stations’) and secret routes, tunnels and back roads to help slaves escape. The people that helped the slaves escape were called ‘conductors’. Slaves would move from station to station at night, hiding in the woods or sneaking onto trains until they finally reached the north and freedom.

Mark out different areas on your floor that create a route (this could be done with masking tape, or areas numbered with post-it notes, for example). Move between these destinations along your route by hopping or jumping or moving ‘station-to-station’. Have somebody hide objects (such as balled up socks) in these places that you can help rescue, pick up, collect and take with you on your journey ‘North’ to the final destination on your route.

Activity 2:

Harriet Tubman once said, “Always remember you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world”.

Reach into the sky with your arms as tall as you can when listening to this song.

Slaves escaping on the Underground Railroad could use the stars to help them navigate. The North Star was used to find north. Repeat activity 1, but instead of jumping station-to-station, cut out stars from card and paper, decorate or colour them and place them on the floor. Move between the stars and follow them on your journey across your room in the direction of the biggest star at the end, the North star.

The North Star can be found in the sky by looking for the constellation (group of stars) known as the Big and Little Dippers. The North Star is the star at the end of the “handle” of the Little Dipper (also referred to as a ‘Ladle’). Play a game of ‘This Is Not A Ladle’ with a ladle or big spoon as a prop to act out your suggestion. This is not a ladle, it’s an arrow pointing my way home. This is not a ladel, it’s a microphone! This is not a ladle it’s an oar to paddle my boat to India.

Try and learn the directions on a compass: north, south, east, and west? Typically these have been remembered by saying ‘Never Eat Shredded Wheat’ – can you come up with your own Mnemonics (using the first letter of each word)? Write them down, illustrate them and share them with us on our FacebookInstagram or Twitter or send it to melanie@purplepatcharts.org and we’ll put it online for you!

Activity 3:

The journeys that the slaves took were difficult, and Harriet’s great task to guide people to freedom was a huge and brave challenge.

Create a lantern like Harriet’s which she used to guide people along their path to freedom. You could either make a  paper lantern using this template and cutting along the lines. Or shine a torch under a jar or bottle filled with water and glitter.

Have somebody hide a big star in your house; with your lantern, walk a path through your house holding your lantern up to find the North Star. Listen to the song, ‘Follow the Drinking Gourd’ here as you walk your path, the “drinking gourd” alludes to the hollowed out vegetable used by slaves (and other rural Americans) as a water dipper. Used here it is a code name for the Big Dipper star formation, which points to the North as a reminder that if people ever got lost they should walk in the direction of the North Star.

Activity 4:

Cut out lots of stars (from paper, card, or magazines), and attaching them to string, make a garland of stars to stretch across your room to represent the route of the Underground Railroad. i.e. the distance between were the slaves were escaping in the South, to where Harriet successfully transported them to, e.g. Pennsylvania in the North, which was a free state.

Activity 5:

Harriet Tubman used disguises to avoid getting caught on her journeys. She dressed as a man, old woman or middle class free African American. Make your own disguise by wearing unusual clothing, or making yourself a mask.

Activity 6:

Songs were used in everyday life by slaves. Singing served many purposes such as providing rhythm for repetitive manual work, inspiration and motivation. Songs were used as tools to remember and communicate since the majority of slaves could not read. Make repetitive rhythms with your body (clapping, tapping, stomping) in time to this song.

Harriet Tubman and other slaves also used songs as a strategy to communicate. Coded songs contained words giving directions on how to escape also known as ‘signal songs’ or where to meet known as ‘map songs’. For example, if a slave heard ‘Sweet Chariot’ they would know they had to get ready to escape as a band of people were coming to take him to freedom…i.e. The Underground Railroad (sweet chariot) is coming south (swing low) to take the slave to the north or freedom (carry me home). This was one of Tubman’s favorite songs. Listen to the song here and join in singing, or do actions every time you hear ‘Coming for to carry me home’.

Activity 7:

One of the reasons Harriet is special is due to how she repeatedly risked her own life to rescue and help many other people. Her story is an inspiring message of hope, strength, and generosity. Harriet has been compared to a bird soaring across the night sky, fluttering back down to the ground to help others fly too. Make a bird from a bun case like this, soaring in the sky.

Activity 8:

To make sure they didn’t get lost on their journey to freedom, people kept an eye out for freedom quilts on their routes. These quilts were made by kind people who wanted to help others escape, and the quilts contained secret codes and symbols, such as specific patterns that meant ‘you should begin to pack for the journey’ and ‘you should get ready to escape’, or used as ways to alert people towards food, the way north, and danger. Because quilts were such an American tradition, they could be hung on porches or displayed on fences without attracting attention.

Draw a large grid and in each square draw a different pattern or symbol, what would your patterns and symbols mean?

Cut squares and triangles from different coloured or textured materials; glue them down in your own quilt pattern. Share your quilts with us on our FacebookInstagram or Twitter or send it to melanie@purplepatcharts.org and we’ll put it online for you!

Add on Activity:

Like other enslaved African American children, young Harriet Tubman had to work hard, one of Harriet’s job as a small girl on a plantation was to pick apples. However, as a slave, she wasn’t allowed to eat the apples. Harriet vowed to one day be free and to grow apple trees of her own. When she was grown, she made her escape to the North and gained her freedom, later, when she moved to New York, she finally planted her own apple orchard. If you have the ingredients you could make apple crisps by coring apples, slice them into circles, toss with cinnamon and sugar; then bake until quite dry.