Levi Coffin House
Activities: Middle School, Grades 6 - 8

A visit to the Levi Coffin House State Historic Site and the use of this packet will, in part, fulfill the following requirements from the Indiana Curriculum Proficiency Guide:

Language Arts:

Exhibit a positive attitude toward language and learning through participating in literary and dramatic activities. Select and apply effect strategies for reading, including critically examining reading material. Write for different purposes and audiences producing a variety of forms, including personal and informational essays; and reflective pieces. Use prior knowledge and content area information to make critical judgments, including comparing and contrasting. Communicate orally with people of all ages by summarizing ideas and acknowledging different points of view.

Science:

The Nature of Science and Technology: Scientific Inquiry

Social Studies:

Grades 6 & 7:

  • Individuals and Society: Develop an understanding of and respect for societal and individual differences.
  • Individuals and Society: Determine how individual behavior is influenced by social groups. Consider how social groups are influenced by the behavior of members.

Grade 7

  • Inquiry Skills: Interpret information presented in graphs, charts, maps, time lines, polls, pictures and cartoons.

Grade 8

  • World Cultures: Trace and assess the role and influence of religion in the American experience.
  • World Cultures: Explain how slavery shaped life in the Americas.

Activities

Language Arts
  1. Imagine that you are a teenager living in the North during the time of slavery. Write a story describing your opposition to slavery and how you may have helped slaves escape. Do you want to fight in the Civil War against the slave-owning South? Why or why not?
  2. Go to the library or find a history book to look up the Emancipation Proclamation given by Abraham Lincoln. Answer the following questions:
    1. Why didn't the Emancipation Proclamation free slaves?
    2. Why did slaves have to wait for the 13th Amendment to become free?
  3. Pretend that you are a runaway slave in 1840, trying to get to the Levi Coffin house so Levi and Catharine will help you find freedom. You have reached Kentucky and want to go through Madison to Newport and then to Michigan where you will remain. Write a one-week diary describing your journey. How did you travel? Were you pursued? Describe your stay at the Coffin House.
  4. Construct a short poem to describe the emotions of being a runaway slave. Use strong emotional words such as terrifying, frightening, treacherous or dangerous. Read your poem to the class.
  5. After your visit to the Levi Coffin House State Historic Site, write a summary paper of your visit comparing and contrasting overall layout of the house with the overall layout of your house. Include the kitchen location, the water source, the size of the stairs, the short doorways and the tow outside doors in the dining room. How as this house build differently from yours?
  6. A monologue is a speech given by one character in a play. It may be an entire scene or a time for the character to reflect and speak to the audience. Write a monologue for a runaway slave character. Talk about the hardships of the escape and include Levi Coffin. Perform your monologue for your class or smaller group.
Science
  1. Discussion: Solving Society's Problems
    Levi Coffin realized there was a problem with slavery. He thought of a solution and acted upon that idea to try to solve the problem.
    1. What steps did Levi use in his fight against slavery?
    2. What problem in society today needs to be solved (pollution, global warming or the extinction of plant and animal life)?
    3. What are some possible solutions to the problems?
    4. What steps would you use to help solve the problem?
    5. What would be possible to do to solve the problem on a local level?
Social Studies
  1. Slave owners did not respect ethnic differences among peoples. Even today there are unfair stereotypes about all ethnic groups. Choose an ethnic group to study; it must not be your own. Think of the negative stereotypes about that group. Write a one page essay describing how those stereotypes are wrong and hurtful.
  2. Discussion: Leadership
    Many large political or social movements begin with a few strong leaders. Levi Coffin was a leader in Newport. He and the other abolitionists were leaders of the anti-slavery movement in America. Many people are followers and don't think much about what they are doing.
    1. Did most salve owners really think about what they were doing?
    2. What groups in today's society have many followers?
    3. Are the followers active participants or passive supporters?
    4. How does lack of commitment and action actually support an issue?
  3. Before your visit to the Levi Coffin House State Historic Site, look at a map of Indiana and locate Jeffersonville and Fountain City. Pretend you are giving directions to a runaway slave traveling from Jeffersonville to Fountain City. Write down directions for travel between the two cities. Remember that the roads may not exist so you must use creative ways to communicate the directions. when you are at the Levi Coffin house, finish your directions with a description of the house and the door the runaway slaves must enter.
  4. The Quakers were the main religious group to help the runaway slaves. Research the Quaker faith (The Religious Society of Friends). Look at their beliefs on equality during the 1800s and compare them to the beliefs held by other churches during that time. Answer the following question and present your response to the class:
    1. Why did the Quakers help the runaway slaves more than other religious groups helped the runaway slaves?
  5. Read a book written by or about other famous people from the Underground Railroad like Sojourner Truth, David Ruggles, Harriet Tubman, William Still or William Wells Brown. Choose one personality and write a short essay about his or her involvement in the Underground Railroad.

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Did You Know?

The Levi Coffin House in Fountain City is recognized as the "Grand Central Station" of the Underground Railroad. Levi and Catharine Coffin were legendary, helping more than 2,000 former slaves escape to freedom in the North.