After legendary Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on September 18 at the age of 87, Class 6 History Teacher Lisa Moy devised a wide-ranging assignment that challenged her students to explore Justice Ginsburg’s remarkable life, including her invaluable contributions to women’s rights and her legacy as a trailblazer for equality.
For several weeks, Ms. Moy’s classes (divided into sections W, X, Y and Z) worked diligently on their exhaustive research projects, guided by essential questions like “What are some interesting facts you learned about Ruth Bader Ginsburg?” and “In what ways was she an outsider versus an insider?” They read articles, watched “RBG,” the 2018 documentary, brainstormed with partners, and wrote entries in the History 6 blog to help develop their ideas.
In addition to educating their classmates, the students were asked to draw personal connections between themselves and Justice Ginsburg and to elaborate on ways in which she was an inspirational figure. Choosing to work independently or in groups of two or three, they were free to use any and all mediums – and no shortage of creativity – to celebrate “the Notorious RBG,” as she was known when she reached pop culture icon status, including visual art, animation, video and poetry.
Because this unit took place prior to Class 6’s return to in-person instruction, the members of each section shared their RBG tributes – in the form of original and dazzling slideshows – on Zoom. The students’ depth of scholarship and imagination were extraordinary!
During visits to sections X and Y, for example, the energy was high as Ms. Moy called on each person to present. “You’re the teacher now,” she told them. “You’re teaching us.”
Encouraged to speak slowly and with confidence, the students illuminated an abundance of fascinating information – from the Justice’s Brooklyn roots to highlights of her illustrious career and her famous workout routine – in a multitude of innovative ways.
One student made an interactive virtual “museum” in which viewers were able to click on RBG’s landmark decisions and dissents. Another showcased Justice Ginsburg’s collection of signature collars, even fashioning her own versions and juxtaposing images of her sporting them with photos of the Justice. Others celebrated Ruth Bader Ginsburg through powerful poetry, eye-catching posters filled with photographs and quotations, colorful comic strips, engrossing videos, and even a mock news segment.
Adding to the collaborative nature of this lesson, class members had the opportunity to give feedback or to ask questions following each talk. Some of the comments included: “I liked the way you problem-solved”; “Your presentation was really well organized”; and “You put so much detail in a way we can all understand.”
Although this writer was unable to visit all of the presentations, Ms. Moy shared how impressed she was with the consistent hard work and ingenuity. “My students are so talented!” she exclaimed.
At the conclusion of this successful project, Ms. Moy asked her students to reflect on the overall experience, especially what they learned about Justice Ginsburg and about themselves. Here are a few samples:
“I liked this assignment because Ruth Bader Ginsburg is one of my biggest role models, and from the beginning of this project I was really excited to learn about one of the most powerful women in history.”
“I loved this assignment because I thought it was incredibly interesting to learn so much about a woman who had fallen down but got back up again.”
“It showed what I can do with my creativity on my own; it helped me learn about RBG; and it was also really fun. I forgot how much I was really learning.”
“Something I learned throughout is how discriminatory our society is. Even today, discrimination exists. But thinking about how RBG fought so hard means that our society was worse back then. So RBG has made a big impact on the world.”
“This assignment allowed us to show our more artistic and creative sides and still learn lots about a historical figure.”
“I am proud of the lessons that I learned, the skills I practiced, the information that I gathered, and the slides that I created.”
“I pushed myself and I can feel that I grew from this project.”
“I thought this assignment would be too much, or I wouldn’t have fun, but it was the complete opposite!