PrintOne Thirty-Minute Class Period
The learner will:
  • identify who was involved, what happened and where it happened in a story about the past.
  • explain the importance of the Underground Railroad as an escape route.
  • discuss the importance of showing respect for others.
  • estimate the importance of persons helping each other in difficult times.
  • use a map to trace a route to freedom.
  • Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson (see Bibliographic References).
  • Map of the United States
  • Felt squares and glue
  • Fabric paints or other supplies appropriate for creating the map on felt
  • Hopkinson, Deborah. Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1995. ISBN: 0679874720.


  1. Hold up the book Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson. Activate prior knowledge by asking children to describe what they see.
  2. Read the book to the class. Go over the details of the story by asking students to identify who was involved, what happened, and where it happened.
  3. Ask students how they might feel in Clara's position. How important were Clara's actions to her community of enslaved people? Ask students to name one reason that a person might give (time, talent, or treasure) in a time of difficulty. What type of person helps others in a time of great danger?
  4. Can a person who owns another person really respect the slave as a person? Discuss the meaning of respect for others. Ask students to write about a time when they felt respect or a lack of respect for another person. Or, have them describe a time when they felt that someone else respected or didn't respect them. Discuss why respect is important.
  5. Explain the importance of slavery to the Southern economy, which explains why masters went to great lengths to find and return persons who tried to escape. Discuss the importance of the Underground Railroad and how it might give a person hope of escaping. Would enslaved persons have had much hope of making it to freedom on their own without the help of others? How is that an example of group cooperation?
  6. Familiarize the students with the geography of the story. Identify the area from which slaves were trying to escape and where they wanted to go. With their fingers, have children trace the route on the map from the south to Canada. Brainstorm some of the problems the persons who tried to escape might have faced in traveling to the North.
  7. Show children an example of a quilt. Discuss how it is made and how the class can make one by gluing felt squares on butcher paper. Provide a copy of a simple map of the area that is to be reproduced on the quilt. Cut the map into squares. Guide students as they share responsibilities to recreate the map on felt squares. You can use fabric paints on felt or another method that suits the abilities of your students. Model the process of connecting the completed felt squares with glue. Complete the quilt as an ongoing project.
Students will recall details of the story, identifying the characters and their motivations and locating the setting of the story on a map. Students' writing should reflect a personal understanding of the meaning of respect. Discussions should reflect that students can see the value of working within a community to help others.
Cross Curriculum 
After discussing the heroic group efforts in the Underground Railroad, students can identify a need in the school community. They can learn more about the situation and work as a group along with an adult to propose solutions and carry out a plan of action.

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 02. Diverse Cultures
      1. Benchmark E.2 Discuss the importance of respect for others.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark E.1 Describe one reason why a person might give or volunteer.