Lacey’s Spring School brings book focusing on Alabama history to life

MORGAN COUNTY, Ala. -- In 2019, Alabama will commemorate its 200th birthday. In August,  Governor Kay Ivey announced the 200 Alabama Bicentennial Schools. Each school received a $2,000 grant to support a year-long project designed to strengthen connections between campuses and their communities.

Lacey's Spring School in Morgan County received the grant, and for their project, they used the book "Leaving Gee's Bend" as a focal point for cross-curricular studies. It's a book of courage and determination based in Gee's Bend, Ala. in the 1930s.

On Friday, the author of the book paid a visit to the school to see how they've been using it in class.

"One of my goals in writing this book was to be an ambassador for Gee's Bend, to let young people know about this amazing community, and to see that happening is really fulfilling," said author Irene Latham.

Students read the book, and studied the many historical aspects

“They got so excited about it,” said art teacher April Childers. “Doing all of the reasearch, and seeing how it was in 1938, and how they lived, and how they got by.”

But the shining star of their project was the live "wax museum" they created to reenact scenes from the book.

The students stood completely still in a scene-- as if they were wax figures. And when an onlooker wanted to watch the scene, with the simple press of a "button" on the ground, the students would make the scene come to life.

Parents and guests were able to visit the school and walk through the scenes themselves as if it were a museum.

"One of the great things about "Leaving Gee's Bend" is it has that potential to be cross-curricular," Latham said.

In science, the students weaved looms. In geometry, they designed quilts. In social studies, they studied the history and learned how to play their characters, and in language arts,  they created the scripts for the scenes they'd be playing.

"These kids have been so excited about it," Childers said. "I guess that's the greatest thing about being a teacher, is you have an idea, but when the students make it their own, that's when it's special."

"To find out that the best part is connecting with readers in this way is amazing to me, it has changed my life," Latham said. "I feel like I have a much greater purpose now."