Programs for Youth

The following programs include four sessions which enable students to:
  1. Engage in a visceral process of historical inquiry, in context;
  2. Develop essential historical research skills in an applied setting;
  3. Contribute to a collective body of knowledge.
*The below programs and walks are best paired, but can also be booked individually.
*Rebecca teaches students of every age level, and the below walks and programs can be adapted to all grade levels upon request. 

Class One: Choose your path 
Choose between the following walks in the Lower Manhattan area. (Scroll down for walk descriptions).
  • Unsettling Wall Street: The Lenape and the Dutch West India Company
  • Unsettling Unity: From Revolution to Civil War
  • Unsettling "Natives": Immigrant Waves
  • Unsettling Progress: The Rise of Policing
  • Unsettling the 1%: People’s Movements in the Financial District
Class Two: How do we know? 
Students engage digital maps created for the Unsettling Wall Street project, fact-check them, check the credibility of sources, and make corrections as necessary.

Class Three: What else would you add? 
Students read between the lines of the "Official Story", look for historical omissions, and begin to make their own alternate contributions to a collective body of knowledge. Choose between the following programs:
  • Filling In the Conversation: Dialogues From the Past
  • Interpreting Economic Crises
  • Mapping An Alternate Future
Class Four: Talking back to history
Students choose a particular "stop." Activating their deepened research skills and knowledge-base, they return to the same locations visited on their initial walk and develop their "stop" further.

Extension: Creative internship
Several students are awarded the opportunity to work outside of class with the guidance of the Decolonial Mapping Toolkit (DMT) team to create works of art, writing, music which will go live on the DMT website.


Class 2: How Do We Know? 

Exploring a "People's History of Wall Street" digital map, students will fact-check the points on the map, examine their sources and add stronger validation to entries. They will correct omissions and may in some cases discover additional points that should be added to the map. As they work, they will learn to think through the following questions:
  • How do we know what we think we know?
  • How do we interpret different types of sources, such as an original document versus a blog entry with no citations? 
  • How can we critically examine different types of primary sources? 
  • How do we make use of citizen media? 
  • What is a trusted source and how do we go about verifying unclear sources? What is a fact, and what is “fake news”? 
  • What is the “Official Story”, what is revisionist history, and what is “People’s History”?

Class 3 (Option 1): Filling In the Conversation

Students collectively write stories and scripts which interpret and develop both famous and little-known historical figures. A class might choose to work together to write dialogues between different "characters," or multiple versions of monologues by the same person. For example, they might zero in on:

*The unknown.
Characters for whom there is no documentation at all, such as unnamed Lenape fishermen, Dutch West India Company laborers (including enslaved Africans and Native Americans), tavern-keepers, or farmers.

*The mysterious.
Ambiguous figures mentioned in historical documents who are likely to have been mischaracterized, such as the “half-free” Africans guaranteed deeds in the “Land of the Blacks” beyond the Wall, escaped Africans mentioned in runaway slave ads, the leaders described in the court proceedings documenting the backlash against the slave revolt of 1741, or some of the multi-racial leaders of the Sons of Liberty.

*The famous.
Figures who are known to have debated and dialogued, such as Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, Thomas Nast and Boss Tweed, Fernando Wood and Abraham Lincoln, etc. Students read between the lines of discussions between well-known historical figures, and consider potential omissions from well-known narratives.

Class 3 (Option 2): Interpreting Economic Crisis

Engaging a map of economic crises over time, students research various perspectives on each economic crisis and consider:
  • What impact did a given economic crisis have on the wider public?
  • What was the official narrative about the crisis at the time? 
  • How did government bodies, banks, corporations, investors, small businesses, and other everyday residents view the crisis? 
  • What happened after the crisis? Who lost their wealth and who managed to regain it? Did anyone go to jail?

Class 3 (Option 3): Mapping An Alternate Future

Students interrogate the past in a way that visions an alternate future, moving beyond the deterministic presumption that dispossession of the Lenape and enslavement of Africans was inevitable. 
  • How would New York look if, rather than imposing the European approach to land ownership, the Dutch and English chose to adopt the Lenape system of rotational land stewardship?
  • What would a map of Manhattan look like, in the absence of the original fortress wall that later became Wall Street? 
Without idealizing the colonized, students draw an alternate map which nonetheless produces a better future for all inhabitants of Manhattan.

Class 4: Talking Back to History

Students revisit their original walk route -- through a second walk or a virtual digital tour -- and flesh out their chosen "historical moment" with the stories of unacknowledged real-life characters.

Extension: Motivated classes chart their own walk routes in advance and bring their interpretations of history to the streets via performative walks. Small groups of students take on a particular point on the map and develop a way to talk back to it by posing factual and existential questions. After preparing their own presentations, they lead one another through their walks. At each stop, students make their own recordings - to be added to a collectively-generated Unsettling Wall Street map (see: Decolonial Mapping Toolkit).


Walks are 2 hours, including time for a snack or lunch. Walks can also be adapted to the classroom in the event of bad weather. *Walks begin in March. Some in-class or indoor museum options also available now, using the digital tool storymaps.

Unsettling Progress: The Rise of Policing

*Students engage in an activity that transforms their understanding of crime and justice as they flip between the roles of "judge" and "judged" in NYC history.
*Together we use inquiry skills to analyze buildings, images, maps and documents as we come to understand the origin of America’s carceral and policing system. 

Walking south, from Chinatown's Columbus Park through the plazas of justice infrastructure centered around Centre Street and Foley Square, we will:
  • Focus on policing in connection to immigration, race, and class. In particular:
  • The origins of policing in response to urban unrest, which was presumed to have been instigated by crowds of immigrants;
  • The role of the police in protecting "property", and the relationship of the police to "the rich" and "the poor".
Some of the questions that come up include:
  • Where did the police come from? In response to what?
  • How does a neighborhood's reputation get tarnished? How does that neighborhood get dealt with and policed?
  • What is a "crime", what isn’t, and who decides?
  • What is the effect of crimes by powerful people? Individuals with less power? Who do these crimes impact, and on what scale? And how have wealthy, versus poor, “criminals” gotten “punished”?
We begin at the location of New York City's first jails and prisons, and end at the city hall steps on which police rioted against each other in favor of a pro-slavery mayor who advocated for secession during the Civil War. 
*Our second stop is the site of New York's first jail, in today's Chinatown; it is also the site of one of the jails set to be demolished and transformed into a 40-story high-rise jail per the mayor's recent jail expansion plan.

Unsettling the “Natives”: Immigrant Waves 

*Together we engage the landscape, steerage and first class menus, and a doctor’s instrument as primary sources as they come to understand the origin of America’s immigration system.
*Students examine images, political cartoons, and texts by Khalil Gibran and his Arab Humanist peers. 

Starting from Battery Park's ferry landings, visiting the Customs House, moving past the Statue of Liberty and World Trade Center towards Little Syria, we will:
  • Connect the dots between the 1924 National Origins Act and current border control scenarios.
  • Touch on the emergence of quarantine centers and settlement houses in response to the 19th century fears of the “epidemics” associated with mass migration.
  • Come to understand the panic around public health underpinning “Nativist” movements in the past. In particular we will take the time to trace the origins of our immigration system to the sinophobic and Orientalist perspectives of the time in which it was constructed. 

Unsettling Wall Street: The Lenape and the Dutch West India Company

*Students use street names and maps to chart their way through the origins of the colony that built the foundations of Wall Street. 
*Younger students explore touch objects such as beaver fur and oyster shells, and engage in a role-play of the construction of the wall which illustrates the concept of commodification in an age-appropriate way

Starting at the Museum of the American Indian at Bowling Green and ending at the Dutch fortress wall that preceded Wall Street, we will:
  • Think through the process according to which Manahatta’s Commons were first carved up. What is the Commons? What is commodification? What changed for the Lenape and the Dutch West India Company workers once land and living things on the island were commodified?
  • Consider the first colonial borders of Manahatta from the perspective of the Lenape, free and enslaved Dutch company workers, with reference to the frontier known as “The Land of the Blacks" beyond the wall.

Unsettling Unity: From the Revolution to Civil War 

*Middle and high school students engage in a tarot-style role-play activity, in which by chance and “accident of birth”, they find themselves trading roles with others. 

Using the Seaport Historic District, its buildings and its ships as a vivid backdrop, we will: 
  • Explore the various interests which ignited slave, sailor, and merchant rebellions according to divergent conceptions of “liberty” and "freedom".
  • Think through the ways these struggles laid the groundwork for Northern economic support for Southern plantations, positioned the "Black Atlantic" to play a role in the Underground Railroad, and set the stage for the Draft Riots. 
  • Ask: What did the “united” in the nascent “United States” reflect, and for which New Yorkers was the country fundamentally united or divided up to and after the Civil War?
Our culminating stop on this walk is one of the locations of the "Colored Sailor's Home", which was operated by the Lyons family in the Seaport until they moved to Five Points, and eventually, Weeksville.

Unsettling the 1%: People’s Movements in the Financial District

Still wondering how Wall Street became the world capital of capitalism? Or how New York City became the place in America where the most money and the most inequity converge to this day? A couple of answers can be found at the foot of the wall erected by the very first corporation in Manhattan, the Dutch West India Company. Still more answers can be found at the dockside where abducted Africans first touched foot on Wall Street. And others can be found on the steps of Federal Hall, our first center of government, ironically constructed right across the street from the New York Stock Exchange. But the best response of all can be found in the resistance movements that converged on Wall Street to fight back every step of the way.

Inviting student contributions! Classes have the option of simply coming on the walk, or choosing a stop — i.e. a resistance movement — to research further and add to the Decolonial Mapping Toolkit, which will go live this winter.) 

The NYC Landscape as Historical Resource: Leading Walks

NYC teachers cultivate new skills in leading interactive walks for their classes/the public while deepening their existing knowledge-base. We will focus on tools and techniques for students aiming to lead walks themselves, from the research phase, to effective use of images and activities, to the logistics of the day of. Ideally, students will also be able to contribute to a digital platform, the Decolonial Mapping Toolkit.

($150 per program, or 250$ for two programs in the same day)


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