Averett Education Students Present First-ever Local History Units to Museum
May 13th, 2021


Six juniors from the Averett University Department of Education presented local history units to the Danville Museum of Fine Arts and History (DMFAH) Tuesday, May 4. Each unit is a plastic storage bin containing educational resources for students and teachers. Students Morgan Jones, Jordan Bennett, Kaitlyn Ritchie, Morgann Dills, Makayla Woods and Sarah Toothman, created the units in their history methods class for kindergarten through fifth grade students in Danville Public Schools.

DMFAH Director Elsabe Dixon noted these are the first type of local history ties available to area teachers following the 2019 creation of the 1960s Danville civil rights movement timeline. She also said Rachel Fehrnstrom with the Virginia Department for the Blind and Vision Impaired will be working with the museum to add in content for students who are blind or visually impaired.

Creating the units took the better part of the spring semester for the education students.

Each unit ties together Virginia Standards of Learning per grade level, artifacts from the museum and elements of local history. Area teachers will have the opportunity to check out the weeklong units from the museum and blend the curriculum into the classroom. The museum will replenish and maintain the units.

Area students now have a resource available to them that includes the 1960s civil rights movement, Wendell Scott, Dan Daniel, tobacco growing and period clothes, the Civil War, social justice and various other subjects.

At the beginning of the semester, Dr. Nancy Riddell, chair of Averett’s department of education, said the students were introduced to the SOLs for each grade level and the project’s overarching goal of a complete grade-level appropriate unit.

The students at the beginning of the semester visited the museum to tour, view artifacts, ask questions, gather more details and to compare notes of their findings. After that, they collaborated over what made sense for each unit.

“It was a lot of back and forth between us, asking, ‘do you think the kids will like this?’” Woods said referring to what they found at the museum. “After that, it all flowed together. It was something fun we were able to put together.”

Each unit is a dive into different elements of the history in Southside Virginia. All of the students pointed out that hands on features – not worksheets – were a key to success when they began considering what to include with their units.

The units by grade level include the following:

  • Kindergartners will get the local legends and people unit. They will learn about Wendell Scott, NASCAR’s first Black driver and only to win in the premiere racing series, and have the opportunity to build their own race car. They will also learn about other figures including Dan Daniel, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Camilla Williams.
  • First graders will use the past and present unit. They will learn about primary and secondary sourcing, questioning, past and present, informed decision-making and the life of King. Other resources include books about King’s life.
  • Second graders will learn about Virginia’s resources in their unit. Lessons include natural resources, cause and effect relationships, past and present, developments and innovations and characteristics of people today and in the past. Students will take a deeper dive into tobacco, the railroad and past articles of clothing.
  • Third graders will learn about social justice. Because Virginia SOLs call for learning surrounding Western Civilization, the tie to the local area was triangular trade, slaves versus indentured servitude, civil rights, voting and citizenship. Students will have the opportunity to handle a segregated dining set, several books and posters relating to the lessons.
  • Fourth graders will have the civil rights movement unit. Their lessons include the effects of segregation and Jim Crow laws, contributions of John M. Langston, massive resistance, key Virginians in the civil rights movement and the civil rights movement in Danville. Students will be able to see the lunch counter from Woolworth’s in Danville where sit-ins occurred, teachers in the movement and review artifacts from the 1963 civil rights movement in Danville.
  • Fifth graders will learn about lives during the Civil War. The unit includes lessons on freedom quilts, primary sources, lives of soldiers, Frederick Douglas, the abolitionist movement and geography during the Civil War. Students can create patchworks, take a deeper look at the abolitionist movement and learn more about the black soldiers in the Civil War.

“This is a new chapter in the museum’s history,” Dixon said.

In 2019, the museum created a never-before assembled timeline of the civil rights movement in Danville. As Dixon pointed out, these are the first history units ever created that tie the museum, civil rights movement, the local area and the classroom together.

“I wanted students to open the boxes and make the most engaging learning experience possible. A main focus was the activities,” Ritchie said.

“There are critical thinking activities to prepare them for middle school with compare and contrast activities,” Toothman said of her fifth grade unit.

Dr. Riddell said she was impressed with the students and their creativity in connecting the museum to the state’s SOLs.

“I think what they created will really connect the students to the area and its history. They did an excellent job, and I’m very impressed in what they created, and seeing how they will use them in their own classrooms,” Dr. Riddell said. The students created an additional unit for themselves to use in their own classrooms.

Because the week of May 3 is Teacher Appreciation Week, Dr. Riddell said many thanks goes to area teachers for their support and service.

“This is also a way to thank the teachers of the community for their service and their support of Averett during Teacher Appreciation Week,” Dr. Riddell said.