Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute Home

Trial American Girls Through Time and Trial

Lesley E. Troppe

Contents of Curriculum Unit 97.03.09:

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As an inner-city third grade teacher I am constantly reminded of the deterioration of expectations that is beginning to manifest itself in our society. As I listen to stories and experiences related to me by my students, it has become apparent that the number of positive role models is diminishing at a rapid rate. My students are accepting and even, in some cases, embracing a new ideology that seems to encourage single-parent families, out-of-wedlock (and very young) mothers, and an education that ends after graduating from high school.

These unsavory elements in today’s society are not only present in our inner cities, but can be found in many diverse areas across the United States. Television, music, movies, and a host of other influential media invade and brainwash our youth. With this unit I would like to provide a framework to introduce students to characters who possess a strong sense of self as well as the ability to overcome and triumph when faced with hard times and tough decisions.

This unit “American Girls Through Time and Trial” will focus on women of different cultures, races, and religions. The books presented will feature diverse American women from select time periods in our history as well as present day. I have chosen three books based on the criteria mentioned. In this unit each book will have approximately a one-page summary that will include the main characters, plot, problems, and other pertinent information. The second section will be a two or more page “history” describing and detailing some of the more important or significant characteristics of the culture, women, and time frame being studied. The third section will have a lesson plan for the classroom teacher to implement. Throughout the sections I will refer to other references available to the teacher and students to follow up on to encourage an environment conducive to the topic being studied.

This unit should allow the students to explore the historical perspective associated with the time period being written about. Simultaneously, students will discover and experience new cultures and the customs, foods, folktales, and traditions that make them so unique as well as educational. I feel that students should be exposed to a variety of cultures and the importance of each and every one of them in today’s world. If children can become educated then there is a realistic goal of eliminating racism and stereotyping that each of us has or will encounter.

The focus of “American Girls Through Time and Trial” was chosen specifically because I feel that the concentration of famous Americans usually centers on men. In an experiment the question, “Name four famous Americans,” was posed. The majority of the answers cited famous white, men. The importance of recognizing women in the past and present will serve many significant purposes. Firstly, as noted previously, young girls today need role models to help them build strong self-esteem and provide support when necessary. Secondly, young men and boys should learn about the hardships that women have endured, exceptional abilities both personally and professionally, and the contributions that affect our daily lives. Lastly, (but certainly not least), both boys and girls should be educated that anyone can break the stereotypic mold and become an intelligent, motivated, capable, worthy, human being

After spending some time reviewing different books that would meet my specifications, I compiled a very long list. The books are easily obtainable and all available at Barnes and Noble or Borders Books Stores. The books I chose represent a variety of time periods and cultures. The first book is entitled, “ Dear America A Picture Of Freedom The Diary of Clotee, A Slave Girl Belmont Plantation, Virginia 1859.” This story visits a young girl living during slave times. Her diary retells the struggles she encounters on a daily basis. The second book, “Plain Girl,” explores the life of an Amish girl who has to attend a public school. “Julie of the Wolves,” takes the reader on a journey to Alaska and the lives of the Eskimo people. These books will, hopefully, provide the teacher a large enough scope to initiate many different types of lessons and projects.

Finally, I would like to emphasize that there is a wealth of exceptional books that explore various types of cultures across all time periods. Any of these books can be easily integrated in the unit plan.

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The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl Belmont Plantation, Virginia, 1859

The main character and author of the diaries published in this book is Clotee Henley, a slave girl on the Belmont Plantation in Virginia. The diary begins in March 1859 as Clotee describes her job as a fanner for the young Mas’ William and Miz Lilly, her mistress, during their study time. She is there to chase away the flies and gnats while Miz Lilly teaches her son William. For three years the twelve year old Clotee has been fanning young William and Miz Lilly but doesn’t mind because while William is learning so is she. Clotee has learned to read and write but has managed to keep her precious secret to herself. Discovery of her academic abilities could lead to terrible consequences. Clotee’s mother is dead and her Aunt Tee has raised her. Aunt Tee is Mas’ Henley’s cook. Aunt Tee is an older woman who also serves as the midwife on the plantation for the other slaves. She is a knowledgeable woman regarding different herbs and homemade medicines. Uncle Heb is Aunt Tee’s husband; he is the gardener on the plantation. Aunt Tee and Uncle Heb were married many years ago during the Christmas Big Times when Mas’ Henley announced that they were going to “jump the broom.” After many years they have grown to love each other very much. Hince is Clotee’s “brother-friend.” Although no one speaks of it, it is assumed that because of his very light skin and resemblance to the master, Hince is Mas’ Henley’s son. Hince tends to the Mas’ horses and soon becomes a jockey winning nearly every race he is entered in. He is the “bread and butter” for Mas’ Henley. Spicey joins Clotee in the big house after Mas’ Henley buys her from another plantation. She is a beautiful young lady with a lifetime full of pain with both physical and emotional scars that make it difficult for Clotee to befriend her. After some time, Clotee wins Spicey’s trust and the two become inseparable. When Miz Lilly decides that William needs a tutor Clotee becomes fearful that her job fanning will be eliminated and her education will stop.

Everything at Belmont is put on hold when William is severely injured. A few weeks earlier Mas’ Henley had purchased a horse named Dancer and declared that it was for his son William. However, everyone is aware that the horse is too much for young William to handle and Hince will be the Dancer’s caretaker. After Clotee overhears William telling Hince how much he wants to ride Dancer, Clotee warns her mistress who dismisses it quickly. A short while later with both Miz Lilly and Mas’ Henley away, William convinces Uncle Heb to saddle up Dancer for him. William rides off only to return hours later, unconscious, dragging behind the horse with his foot still stuck in the stirrup. William’s recovery looks bleak and in a fit of rage Mas’ Henley kills Dancer with one shot to the head and walks off to find Uncle Heb who he blames for his son’s condition. Mas’ Henley beats uncle Heb so badly that a few hours later he dies. After the burial Mas’ Henley decides that he doesn’t trust Aunt Tee to cook for him anymore, fearful that she will poison his food. Aunt Tee is promptly moved out of the big house and down to the fields. During this time William’s tutor, Mr. Harms arrives. As William’s health improves Mr. Harms begins to work with him while Clotee continues to fan. One day during a lesson Clotee lets on that she knows how to read. Certain that Mr. Harms is going to reveal her secret, she is very surprised when he does not. Eventually, it becomes clear to Clotee that Mr. Harms is not who he appears to be. When she spots Mr. Harms meeting with one of the slaves after dark, she realizes that he is an abolitionist. Shortly there after Clotee receives a note from Mr. Harms saying that he will speak with her soon. When he finally does talk to her, her suspicions are confirmed.

As Clotee develops a relationship with Mr. Harms, he slips her literature written by abolitionists from Boston. She has had to share her reading and writing secret when a valuable Bible belonging to Spicey is stolen. Clotee has hidden her diary in the same place as Spicey’s Bible. When the Bible is taken and Mr. Harms announces that he has found it, Clotee must tell Aunt Tee and Spicey everything, including her knowledge of Mr. Harms so that Aunt Tee and Spicey will not accuse her of setting up Spicey. Mr. Harms has taken the Bible to throw off Miz Lilly who is becoming suspicious of him after finding out that his uncles are well known abolitionists. He successfully gains their trust while still communicating with the plantation slaves. Spicey’s bible is eventually returned unharmed. Mr. Harms tells Clotee that Belmont is the first station on the Underground Railroad in that area. The runaways meet their first conductor in the Belmont woods and are taken on to the next point.

Things continue uneventfully until one day Clotee overhears another plantation owner offer to buy Hince for his jockey skills. Mas’ Henley declines the offer but instead makes a bet. He bets Hince against the horse he’d be racing. Hince wins and Mas’ Henley takes the horse, Hince loses and they can take Hince. January first Hince loses the race after his horse has been drugged. Rather than be taken to the Deep South, Hince tells on Mr. Harms to try and get his freedom. Mas’Henley had offered any slave freedom in return for information regarding the abolitionists. With Mr. Harms in dire trouble, Clotee and Spicey devise a plan to save him. After convincing the sheriff that there is not enough evidence to arrest him, Mr. Harms prepares to leave Belmont.

Hince’s freedom is denied because he already belonged to someone else when Mas’ Henley granted him his freedom. It is decided that Spicey and Hince, who have fallen in love, will run away together. Clotee figures out a way for them to disguise themselves as they travel the Underground Railroad. A short while later Clotee meets up with Mr. Harms to get an update on Spicey and Hince. After finding out that they were fine, Mr. Harms begins to discuss Clotee’s plan for leaving. She has decided, however that she would rather stay and be a conductor leading other slaves on to freedom.

In the epilogue of the book the readers are able to discover what happened to Miss Clotee Henley. Clotee served as a conductor for the Underground Railroad, helping over one hundred and fifty slaves to freedom. From 1862-1865 she served as a spy for the Union army and was awarded a commendation for her valor. In 1875 Clotee returned to Virginia where she attended Virginia Colored Women’s Institute, and then devoted her life to education.

In 1619 the first indentured servants were brought to the Virginia colony. By the 1850s slavery was accepted and encouraged. Virginia legislators, usually wealthy planters, passed laws that protected the slave owners. Hundreds of slave laws or “Black Codes” were passed. These laws forbade slaves to run away, hold public meetings, marry interracially, testify against a white man in court, or receive an education. Slaves who were suspected of violating a law were dealt with severely.

Slaves resisted in many ways. Work slow downs, arson, murder, suicide, and rebellions were all used to gain freedom. If the opportunity to run presented itself, most ran. Runaways always presented a problem for the slaveholders. Anyone who assisted runaways was penalized. Most slaves who reached a free state were allowed to live as a free person. However, the revised Fugitive Slave law of 1850, allowed slaveholders to go into a free state and recapture their property.

In 1688 the first written document protesting slavery marked the beginning of a formalized abolitionist movement. One of the largest and most effective anti-slavery organization was the American Anti-Slavery Society. New York, Philadelphia, and Boston were considered the centers of the movement, but anti-slavery groups could be found across the U.S.

To help runaways make the trip from the south to the free states the abolitionists formed a network that consisted of conductors on the Underground Railroad. Many upstanding citizens in the community endangered their own lives to assist the runaway slaves. One of the best known conductors of the Underground Railroad was Harriet Tubman. As a fugitive slave, with a price on her own head, she led hundreds of slaves to freedom. In 1857, after Dred Scott sued his master for taking him to live in free territory, the Supreme Court ruled that a slave could not sue for his freedom because he was considered “property.” The court added, “No black man had rights that a white man had to respect.” Essentially, this said that African-Americans were not considered citizens.

Many abolitionists wanted to end slavery through peaceful endeavors. There were some, however who felt the only way to achieve freedom was by force. In October of 1859, John Brown, along with five blacks and thirteen whites led an attack on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry in Virginia. Although most of the men were killed, John and several others were captured and hung. After this heroic attempt, many sympathizers revered him as a hero.

Conditions on the plantations were desolate and miserable. The master of the plantation ruled his wife, children, workers, and slaves. He had the authority to treat any one of these people as he chose, so long as he did not disobey the law (the laws were always in the slaveholder’s favor). The master’s wife was usually considerably younger than her husband. Girls as young as fourteen were permitted to marry and encouraged to have children as soon as possible. The children were left to be cared for by a slave woman who acted like a nanny. Many times slave children were half brothers and sisters to the white children, having the same father. In 1859 most slaveowners had twenty-five to thirty field workers and four or five household servants. The lives of the field slaves were filled with violence, exhaustion, hunger, and overall misery. The work was backbreaking and never-ending. Health was poor and their diet was meager. Death came early to many slaves and those who didn’t die were turned out to fend for themselves when they were too old and no longer needed. The living conditions were no better. Slaves were forced to live in huts that were dirty and extremely small. Broken doors, dirt floors, no beds, and little heat in the winter were some of the atrocities that were endured. Overcrowding created other problems. Those who lived in the “Big House” had a few advantages but the disadvantages were much bigger. House servants were expected to do all the work in the house-cooking, cleaning, ironing, washing, caring for the children, toting bath water, and fanning. House servants were on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Slaves were forbidden to learn how to read and write and efforts were taken to keep slaves illiterate. Discovery could lead to various punishments, one of the worst being sold to the Deep South where escaping was almost impossible. Regardless of the risks, many slaves did learn to read and write and taught the others.

In 1860 Abraham Lincoln was nominated to run for presidency on the Republican ticket. He supported the abolition of slavery in the United States. A few months after Lincoln was elected president, the first shot was fired at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. Five years later, in 1865, the war was over. Four million slaves living in the United States and a quarter of a million fugitive slaves were finally free.

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Plain Girl

By Virginia Sorensen

“Plain Girl” by Virginia Sorensen takes place in Pennsylvania Amish Country. Esther Lapp, a nine-year-old Amish girl, has been taught at home her whole life. When two men arrive one day to speak with her father, she learns of a compulsory school law that requires her to attend public school. Esther’s father, who is against public education, must choose to either send her to school or be arrested. He has already been arrested and fined three times (a while back) before finally allowing his elder son Daniel to go to the school. Esther overhears her father telling the two men that Amish people believe in the law, but not in a bad law that forces men to send their children to learn bad ways. Mr. Lapp concedes that it is not the teachers who are bad. It is only the children in the school who are so different. Their clothes and ways, so many unfamiliar things can put strange ideas into an Amish head. As Esther listens she thinks of her brother Dan who went to the public school. Dan has been gone for sometime, having left the Amish ways to explore the world around them. Esther knows her father blames the school for Daniel’s leaving. “In one week,” the men say before leaving, “school starts Esther feels sorry for her father who is obviously unhappy, but she is not the least bit sorry about school. Daniel loved school and she is excited to see all the wonderful things he told her about—books with colored pictures, bright crayons and chalk, paper to fold and cut, and the machine that can bring out music. These were all things the Amish did not believe in. They called themselves the “Plain People.” Esther knows that machines, cars, bright clothes, and lots of other “frivolous” things are not part of her culture and therefore forbidden. The Amish were farmers and their lives devoted to harvesting the land and studying their faith. Esther loves her life on the farm—her house with all its good smells, the beautiful woodlands, the huge barn and all the pleasant animals. The People were always alike in their simple clothes but she knew everyone by name and face. From behind one couldn’t be told from the other. All the yellow topped buggies lined up on the road to church on Sunday morning, or to a wedding in November, sometimes a funeral, are all signs of life, the only kind that Esther has ever known.

As the first day approaches Esther’s thoughts turn toward her absent, older brother Dan. Daniel was tall, strong, and full of laughter. When Dan began school his own world had widened and this peaked his interest. Once, while Esther was working in the fields with him, she caught him looking in the sky. When she asked if he was looking for mocking birds he laughed and told her, “ No Esther, of course not. Those birds live where it is always warm. The year round, in some places it is always warm. Can you imagine such a thing!” She couldn’t imagine it until he brought home a book from school and showed her. Then there was the time when Dan had referred to Sunday as the hardest workday of the week. She knew he meant when the meetings were held at their house and the benches had to be carried in and out and the tables set up. She had never thought of those things as work. Dan had never said that before. One day over a year ago, while she was walking home from a neighbor’s house, a car pulled up along side. She kept her eyes down until she heard someone say, “Hello Esther.” She looked up in surprise to see Dan pop his head out of the window. Dan told her that she could tell Father if she wanted to but, he had always wanted to know what riding in a car was like, now he knew. She hadn’t told Father. Remembering all this, Esther realizes that it was all part of the “trouble.” When a preacher at a meeting said never to make the First Step Away, she knew what it meant. After Dan left she understood that without the first step you could not make the second, third, or final step.

Daniel had left almost a year ago. He had gone to the fair by himself to show his horses. A man wasn’t allowed to be proud of himself, but he could be proud of his horses. Their neighbor had returned the horses with only a letter from Daniel. After Father had read the letter to himself, he walked into the house and placed it in the fire. Father had turned and said, “We will not speak of Daniel here again.” His name had not been mentioned after that.

The night before school begins Esther is told by her father that it is best to stay by herself. He continues explaining that she is expected to do as the teacher says, unless it is something she has been told never to do. She is not to look at the children.

The day finally arrives for Esther to go to school. Father will not allow her to ride the bus, so he must bring her in the traditional Amish way, by buggy. Esther receives all the things Dan has told her about-the colored paper, scissors, and books with lots of colored pictures. She listens to her father and keeps her eyes down to avoid the other children. After lunch the girl in front of her turns around and tells Esther that she’s glad to sit by her.

As the days go on Esther begins to feel more comfortable in school. One day Esther realizes that the other children are laughing at her when the girl in front of her turns around and tells her that she would never laugh at her. “I like you,” she states. “My name is Mary.” Mary is a pretty girl with blond hair, rosy skin, and beautiful colored dresses. Esther and Mary become fast friends. Mary teaches Esther how to play jacks and passes notes to her during the day. Esther struggles on a daily basis knowing that she is disobeying Father. She has so many questions that are unanswered; the only person she feels would understand is Dan. Esther prays for his safe return. Sooner than even she expected, her prayer is answered. The next day Esther is pulled aside by Sara, who has received a letter from Daniel. Sara and Dan were considered a couple and expected to marry before he left. Sara had remained “faithful” to Dan certain that he would return for her one day. Sara tells Esther that while at the farm sale a boy came over to her and handed her a letter. The letter told her that he was behind the barns if she could get away for a minute to speak with him. Dan told Sara that he wanted to see Esther. Sara explained to Dan that Esther was now going to school. Sara tells Esther that they must return to the house but that Dan will see her soon.

On Monday at recess a boy tells Esther that her brother is here and that he wants to talk with her. He looked so different with no bangs, short hair, and no hat. He even had three buttons on his coat! After Esther has spent some time crying on her big brother’s shoulder, she asks him if he is planning on returning home. Dan agrees that he would like to but only if it’s done in the right way. Although she is eager to find out where Dan has been for long, the bell rings and she has to leave. The next day though, Dan is back. He explains to Esther that while at the fair a man came up to him and offered him a job in the stables paying him a good salary. Knowing that Father would never allow such a thing, he decided to stay and send a letter home. With the money he earned he bought new clothes and an old car. There was more too. The owner of the stables had a pretty daughter with blond hair. When she went out with different boys besides him, he told her that he didn’t like it and she laughed at him. The girl told everyone what he had said and when Dan told her father that he had even kissed this girl, the owner asked if he expected his daughter to go steady with him. When Dan replied yes the man just laughed. That’s when Dan realized that things were too different with those people. After thinking about it, Dan wrote a letter to the owner and left. Once he was gone all he could think about was Sara. That’s when he decided to go to the farm sale and try to find her. Esther tells Dan that he should come home. If only his hair was long and he had the right clothes. Esther remembers that some of Dan’s old clothes are put away in a chest. Dan leaves telling Esther he will be back next week to talk to her again. For many weeks Dan came to the school to visit Esther during recess. His hair had started to grow but didn’t look long enough yet to come home.

Esther and Mary’s friendship continued to grow and Esther now had a pile of letters tucked away in her desk from Mary. Mary considered them to be “bosom friends.” Esther knew what “bosom friends” meant and even though she knew that Father had warned her against this, she chose to continue being friends with Mary and enjoying it. In the back of her mind however, Esther still feels unsure and one day tells Dan that she and Mary want to trade dresses just for one day. Dan looks very surprised but says to Esther that he will think about it and get back to her.

One night after planning with Dan, Esther sneaks out of bed and quietly takes the old clothes that once belonged to him out of the chest. Leaving the clothes in a predetermined spot Esther, her heart pounding so loudly she’s sure she’ll wake up her parents, hears Dan rustle about in the leaves and finally whisper, “I’ve got it.” Esther returns to her bed happy.

The next day Esther is surprised to see Sara sitting in the buggy by the school. When Father finally leaves, Sara urges Esther to get in the buggy. Once in the buggy, Sara tells Esther that Dan has spoken to her about Esther’s problem. Sara comforts Esther by telling her that she too has had a similar experience with a friend from the school. Now, her best friend from school lives in town and when Sara goes to market she stops to see her. At first Sara’s mother was very concerned, but saw that it wasn’t doing any harm. She adds that when she and Dan have their own house and farm Esther and Mary can go there and do as they please. Esther is very relieved and returns to school only to find Mary close to tears because her mother has put away the pretty pink dress that they were going to switch. Esther and Mary exchange notes and concludes that they can still be “bosom friends” without changing.

On Christmas Day right after Father has said the blessing there is a knock on the door. When Father answers it, there is Daniel. Esther’s mother rushes forward and embraces her son crying and telling Daniel that she has prayed for this day. Before entering Daniel turns to his father and asks permission to go in. With tears in his eyes, Father answers, “It’s Christmas, come in.”

The Amish Farm

The Amish are known to be some of the world’s best farmers. One reason for this is their selection of farmland. Most of their success lies in their belief that farming is a way of life. It is not a get rich quick scheme. Many Amish feel sorry for those who do not live on or close to the farmlands. For them the work is enjoyable and fulfilling. Hard work and lots of careful planning go into the farm. Amish farms are very rarely sold to non-Amish families. This provides stability for their community, knowing that the land is purchased forever. Another contributing factor to land stability is the nonexistence of divorce. There are very few cases, among the Amish, of couples divorcing.

Dairy herds are very popular as a means of fiscal security. Corn, alfalfa, and tobacco are also popular crops. The Amish have very few mechanized machines, relying mostly on horse pulled tractors and physical labor.

Amish School

The Amish are not against education however, they are cautious about the influence and tone that the “progressive” schools may have on the Amish students. In 1972 the Supreme Court granted Amish and related groups the right to limit formal education to eight grades. The Amish objection to formal education beyond eighth grade is grounded in religious beliefs. “They object to the high school and higher education generally because the values it teaches are in marked variance with the Amish values and intellectual and scientific accomplishments, self-distinction, competitiveness, worldly success, and social life with other students.” The Amish do not integrate religion in the daily school curriculum. Each morning the Bible is read and the Lord’s Prayer is repeated in unison. The Amish believes that Bible instruction and interpretation belong only in church and at home.

Most Amish schools today resemble the old one-room schoolhouses of long ago. There is one room and a teacher for all eight grades. Many students walk to school and bring their lunch. Subjects include reading, writing, and arithmetic. The younger students learn by listening to the older students. Older students help the younger ones. Teachers are often young unmarried women. Occasionally the teacher will not be Amish, but only if that person is trusted by the parents. It is very unusual to find a married Amish woman with children at home acting as the regular teacher. The Amish community feels that a mother’s first priority is raising her family.

Parents are involved in the education of their children. Many times parents will arrived unannounced and their support is always available. There are board meetings held monthly to attend to any needs or particular problems. The school is supported by either a school tax approach or free-will offering.


Children are considered invaluable and are treated as such. Most families are large and children are looked upon as “a gift from the Lord.” Many babies are born at home. Hospitals are used too. The Amish have traditionally favored biblical names for their children. Children are taught many essential skills such as how to bake bread, plant crops, live without electricity, and care for the animals to name just a few. The Amish family is careful to ensure that children feel needed, wanted, and loved.


Young Amish men and women do not usually have a long engagement. Intention of marriage is made several weeks prior to the wedding. Almost all weddings take place after the harvest is finished in November or December. The wedding day begins as early as five o’clock in the morning and can go well into the night. Relatives, friends, and church members are invited. Tuesday or Thursday is considered a wedding day. As guests arrives they are greeted with a handshake from the bride and groom. The bride makes her own dress and the dresses of her two attendants. White is not used; dark colors such as navy, dark blue or purple are acceptable. The groom and his attendants wear a black suit, shoes, and hat. The church service is three to four hours in length. Male relatives of the groom begin traditional wedding hymns while the bride and groom are upstairs with the bishop and ministers who question them on their understanding of the seriousness of the faith and marriage. Afterwards the bride and groom resume their place near the minister’s row. They must answer three questions and then a special prayer is said. The rest of the day is spent eating, visiting, and singing.

In many Amish communities, the newlyweds will not set up their own house until late winter or spring. They will spend long weekends together and occasionally a week or two. Traditionally, the groom’s family will provide financial aid until they are self-sufficient.


The Amish do not believe in driving cars. They have observed that once a person does begin to drive, the quality of their life starts to deteriorate. A car in the family will ultimately divide the unit as fewer meals are taken as a whole family and visiting becomes obsolete. A larger concern for the car owner is the idea that nothing seems too big or far. “A machine the size of an automobile gives the owner a fantasy of power which is unnatural,” the Amish say.

The answer to this dilemma is the horse drawn buggy. There are about a hundred different variations of the buggy. The average buggy costs between two and three thousand dollars depending on the style and community. Weather is an important consideration when traveling by buggy. Some buggy styles are not closed in; some buggies are driven with open fronts; and others have no tops at all. These types require that the passengers wear heavy clothing, bring blankets, and umbrellas.

The typical color for a buggy is black. Some Amish communities drive grey-topped buggies while others may have yellow, yellow-brown, or white-topped buggies.


For the Amish, when someone is in need the whole community pitches in to help. Barnraising provides a perfect example of this community “ownership.” It is a terrible loss for the Amish farmer when his barn is reduced to nothing after a fire has ripped through it. Almost immediately the farmer has met with an Amish building contractor to draw up plans for a new barn. The barn is the largest, most expensive, and complicated building on the farm. Cleaning-up may take several days however, it is not uncommon for the neighbors to call a “clean-up day,” and gather together to assist those in need.

There is a lot of planning in order to build a barn in just one day. Both women and men participate. The large number of volunteer’s make this amazing endeavor a successful one. The women prepare enormous quantities of food. There are two snacks taken at the site of the barnraising. One at mid-morning and one at mid-afternoon. Most of the food is brought by friends and neighbors. The noon meal includes meat. potatoes, vegetables, and dessert.

Barnraising is not only hard work, almost always it provides friends and relatives a chance to visit and socialize.

Teenage Years

Amish teens, like all other teens, go through years of difficult decision making. Many Amish teens must decide whether to stay and practice their beliefs or go and explore the world outside of their community. Amish teens have been known to be rowdy. Although drinking and “partying” are not accepted in the Amish household, many teens have exhibited rebellious behavior. Until a decision is made whether to leave or stay, the pressure increases. Many young Amish do leave, but many more choose to stay.


One of the toughest parts of the Amish way is shunning. “The Amish believe that if a member has violated his or her baptismal vows, fallen into sin, or gone against the rules and regulations of the group, and has refused the counsel and concern of the fellowship, that member must be excommunicated.” Once a member has been shunned it requires that all social and business dealings are ended. Shunning and the definition of shunning can vary from group to group. Some believe that shunning is for life while others feel that it should only last for a certain number of years. Leaders of the Amish world hope that shunning will assist the offender to repent his or her sins. However, often many times the severity of the punishment results in rejection of the Amish lifestyle altogether.


Death is an accepted part of the Amish life. The Amish explanation is summed up in the quote, “ The Lord giveth; the Lord taketh away.” As customary for most things, the whole Amish community will assist with the preparations and burial of the deceased. As soon as the body is returned home from the embalming, the family member is prepared for burial. Almost all Amish funeral practices are the same. The funeral is held at home or in the barn of the deceased with neighbors and church members taking care of the service and meal. It costs less than half of a non-Amish funeral because the materials used are so simple.

A white cloth covers the face of the deceased until the end of the service. After the benediction, the undertaker removes the cloth and the Amish view the body while filing out. Pallbearers carry the coffin out to the hearse, which is a slightly larger buggy owned by the undertaker. The funeral procession goes to the cemetery where the relatives view the deceased one last time before the coffin is lowered into the ground. There is a brief service and then the grave is completely closed. Later, the family will place a simple, white, rounded tombstone with the dates of the deceased birth and death. Amish tradition requires that the female relatives wear black dresses in public. The time of mourning is one year for each parent, spouse, and sibling, six months of mourning for a grandparent or grandchild; three months for an aunt or uncle and six weeks for a cousin.

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Julie of the Wolves

By Jean Craighead George

The story, “Julie of the Wolves,” by Jean Craighead George is a fascinating tale of Old World traditions, courage, and strength. In her small Eskimo village she is known as Miyax; to her pen pal in San Francisco she is Julie. When Miyax must decide on the life she wishes to have or the one that has been chosen for her, Julie chooses to set out on her own across the Alaskan wilderness in search of a new world where she can live her dreams. Her “trip” quickly escalates into an adventure when she becomes lost in the wilderness. She must survive on her own without any supplies but her common sense and knowledge of the wilderness that her father has taught her. Slowly Julie is accepted by a pack of wolves and they become her family. The day finally arrives when she must once again make a decision that will transform her life.

When Miyax was four years old her mother died. She did not remember her very well, but she did remember the day. That was the day when Kapugen took Miyax and walked away from everything. He had left an important job, a fine house, and all his possessions. Kapugen and Miyax walked all the way to the seal camp where they set up a new life. For Miyax, the years she and her father, Kapugen, spent living together at the seal camp were wonderful. Kapugen and Miyax hunted and fished, made fishing nets, mended boots, made boats, and carved walrus tusks. The evenings were spent singing songs and dancing. All the songs were about the sea and the land and the creatures. Kapugen told her about the spirits of the animals and taught her the ways of Eskimo life. The Eskimos from Mekoryuk spoke English and called her Julie. During the summers many families from Mekoryuk came to the seal camp to hunt and fish. She did not mind when these people called her Julie until one day her father called her that. “She stomped her foot and told him her name was Miyax. “I am Eskimo, not a gussak!”

One day Kupugen’s Aunt Martha appeared at the door. She and Kapugen had a loud disagreement. Miyax could not understand the conversation, they were speaking in English but, Aunt Martha did look over at her a number of times and then took out a piece of paper and showed it to Kapugen. After some time she left, promising to return. The next morning Kapugen held Miyax and told her that she must go to school. She was nine years old and there was a law that required her to attend. Also, he had to go and fight in a war. Before she left Kapugen told her that if anything happened to him and she was unhappy, she could leave when she turned thirteen. At thirteen she would be permitted to marry Daniel, Naka’s son. Naka was Kapugen’s partner and Kapugen assured her that he would agree, he also had old time Eskimo traditions.

At Martha’s house she was no longer Miyax, but instead Julie. She went to school and learned English. One day Martha told Julie that Kapugen had been missing for a month and would not be returning. Eventually, Julie pushed her memories back and accepted her life in Mekoryuk. A while

Later as Julie was walking home, a man pulled up along side of her and introduced himself telling about his daughter, who was about the same age, that lived in San Francisco. His daughter, Amy, wanted him to find a girl who would like to exchange letters. Julie like the idea and accepted. Soon she and Amy were writing back and forth telling about their lives, families, and homes. Julie was enchanted with Amy and her life. In one of the letters Amy asked Julie to come and live with her.

In Mekoryuk there was no high school and only the children from wealthy families were sent to the mainland to continue their education. Martha could not afford that and Julie spent her days doing chores and waiting for Naka to call. Julie thought that if she did marry Daniel Naka would send her to school. One day the call came and Julie was sent by plane to live with Naka and his family. When she arrives and is introduced to Naka’s wife Nusan and Daniel, she instantly notices that Daniel is not “normal.” Nusan detects Julie’s disappointment and reassures her by saying that Daniel is a good boy and will be like a brother to her. This makes Julie feel much better. However, this is short-lived when Julie and Daniel are married the next day. To make matters worse, Naka is an alcoholic and becomes very abusive with Nusan. Julie works with Nusan sewing boots for the tourists and life become routine. One evening when Nusan leaves to bail Naka out of jail Daniel comes home and tells Julie that she must be like a wife with him and mate. He attacks her and Julie falls to the floor with Daniel who is kicking her. He is frightened too and quickly gets up and leaves telling her tomorrow “he can.” Sick and dizzy Julie gets up and decides to leave immediately. Grabbing some clothes and a few other necessities, she walks out.

Julie is no longer Julie, but Miyax. She has decided to travel to the airport, far away, where she will go to San Francisco and live with Amy. Miyax must use all the skills her father has taught about the animals, the land, the Eskimos. She must locate the North Star in order for her to find the way unfortunately, the sun will not set for a month this time of year and soon Miyax is lost. After traveling for many days on the tundra, she is hungry and tired. She comes upon a pack of wolves and decides to camp near them in hopes of getting some food. It is clear that there is a leader. She names him Amaroq and spends many hours watching the wolves interact, learning their ways. There are three other adults in the pack and five pups. Miyax names the other adult wolves; Silver, Nails, and Jello. Silver is Amaroq’s mate. Silver and Nails follow Amaroq on hunts but Jello does not. He is the outcast of the pack and forced to stay with the pups until the others return.

After observing the pack for a few days while maintaining her distance, Miyak begins to figure out their language. She soon realizes the different types of stares, head movements, and nuzzling are the way to communicate. At one point Amaroq approaches her. On all fours, like the other wolves, Miyax crawls over to him and nuzzles him with her head under his head, signaling to him that she knows he is the leader and accepts that. After this encounter Miyax is slowly able to close the physical distance between herself and the pack. Eventually Miyax tells them that she is hungry and needs food. The request is understood and after an outing Miyax is rewarded when Amaroq brings her food in a “belly basket.” The days drag on and Miyax is now staying with the pack knowing that they are her only hope of survival. Winter is fast approaching and this will make her life even more difficult. The pups have gotten used to Miyax and she notices that one in particular stands out. He has his father’s presence and it is clear that he too will one day be the leader. Miyax names him Kapu and they become fast friends.

As the wolves travel, so too does Miyax. She follows their footsteps while continuing to use all the skills her father had taught so long ago. Miyax still wishes to find the airport and finally go to her pen pal in San Francisco. But for now she must get through the winter and this means staying close to Amaroq and the others.

One day, with the pack nearby, Miyax hears a strange sound. She realizes in horror that it is the sound of and engine in the sky. Miyax sees Amaroq and Kapu out on the tundra just as the plane comes into view. The only planes that come out here are the ones with hunters, she thinks. Miyax calls to the wolves but it is too late. Amaroq and Kapu are both shot. Stricken with grief, Miyax has to wait until the plane leaves. Amaroq lay in the snow dead and the hunters did not even bother to come back and get him. Kapu was alive but badly injured. Miyax decides that Kapu is too heavy to move to her tent, so she builds the tent around him instead. For many days and nights Miyax nursed Kapu. Silver stopped by bringing what little food she could hunt. Then one day Kapu got up and ran over the snow without stumbling and Miyax knew it was time to move. Still following the pack now led by Kapu, Miyax keeps busy hunting, carving, sewing, chopping wood, or making candles.

Miyax continues on until one day she hears footsteps on the ice. An Eskimo hunter and his wife are traveling. After inviting them in and talking for a while, Miyax learns that the hunter has a friend. This friend is Kapugen. When Miyax hears this she is stunned and tries to get as much information as she can about this Kapugen. She learns that Kapugen does not live far from where she is and decides that she must go and see if this is the father that she has thought to be dead for so long.

After traveling a short distance Miyax hears the bark of Kapu. She cannot let them follow her; it is too dangerous for them. Knowing this Miyax commands to them, in their language to stay. Kapu stoops for a moment, almost as if not believing her message, and then turns and head in the opposite direction. She has spoken her last words to them.

Miyax reaches the village where her father should be and finds the house where her father should be. After knocking on the door, Miyax hears Kapugen answer and watches as he opens the door. Kapugen does not recognize Miyax at first and asks who she is. After a warm reunion Kapugen introduces Miyax to his new wife, Ellen. Miyax is horrified as she looks at her and sees a gussack. Her eyes sweep the room and she notices for the first time the radio, cotton curtains, electric stove, coffee pot, and china dishes. Ellen explains to Miyax in poor Upick that she is a teacher. The phone rings and Kapugen explains that he must leave but will return shortly and then they will talk. Kapugen puts on his long American made Arctic field coat and leaves. Ellen goes into the kitchen to prepare some food and Miyax is left alone. Miyax picks up her things and silently leaves the house. She is an Eskimo and as an Eskimo she will live. One day she will find another like herself and marry him, but for now she will go back to the tundra where her home is.

Winter Homes

Most people believe that Inuits live only in igloos. The word igloo means, any kind of house. Igloos were only built when there were no other materials to build with. For a long time Inuits have built houses out of wood or stone and turf. Eskimo hunters may still use igloos as temporary dwellings. Am Eskimo can construct an igloo in about an hour or two. First, a circle is drawn in the snow to mark the place where it will stand. Then a long swordlike knife is used to cut blocks from the snow. Snowblocks are approximately two feet long, one foot thick, and one foot high. These blocks are placed one on top of the other in a circle to form a dome shape. Snow is used to cover up any cracks. There is a long, narrow tunnel attached to make an entrance. The inside of the igloo is one small room. It can become fairly warm. With lamps or a fire the temperature can reach sixty degrees. Animal skins are used to cover the floor and provide bedding for sleeping.

Family Life

During the winter men did much of the hunting. Animals in the Arctic are very important to Eskimos and their way of life. Whales, seals, and walruses were hunted with harpoons. Bow and arrows, nets and hooks for fish, and nets on long poles were used to hunt fish and birds. Throughout Inuit history women and boys did most of the trapping of animals.

Animals that were hunted provided food, clothing, heat, and shelter. Fibers from bird feathers were spun into thread. Sealmeat was eaten and seal sinews or tendons were also made into thread. The sinew swells when it is wet and helps keep clothing waterproof. Oil from various animals were used in lamps. Fur provided clothing while scraps were used to make toys or dolls. Animal skins were made into hooded jackets or parkas. Boots, called mukluks, were made out of sealskin with walrus hide on the bottom. These are only a few examples of the many uses of the animals an Inuit will hunt and kill.

Mothers prepared most of the family’s meals. The stove was a lamp called a “kudlik.” A kudlik was very essential in an Inuit home. Besides its use in cooking, the kudlik provided light and heat, and dried wet clothes. Fish oil, seal oil, or animal blubber were used for fuel. The wick was made out of moss or grass.

Inuits ate raw meat and fish when hunting or traveling but usually boiled it over a kudlik for an evening meal. Vitamins and minerals are plentiful in uncooked fish and meat. Dried greens and seaweed were often added to the pot. Inuits ate almost every part of an animal including the liver, heart, and intestines. “Muktuk,” a thin layer of fat under a whale’s skin was considered a delicacy and a special treat.


Babies spent their first year carried on their mother’s back in an “amaut.” An amaut was a hood on the mother’s jacket made especially for that purpose. Inuit children were played with and cuddled a lot. Toddlers and young children spent winter playing indoors. There were many games for kids that included cat’s cradle, the hopping game, and using an animal skin as a trampoline.

Neighbors would lake care of each other’s children. Occasionally, a family with too many children would give one child to a family that had no children.


Inuits typically lived in small groups but there were never any tribes or chiefs. Leaders were chosen for special skills. If a hunting trip was planned, the best hunter would be the leader. The same went for fishing. Arguments might have been settled by a singing contest. If two men disagreed, then they would have made up songs to insult one another. The man whose song was the funniest, cleverest, or most insulting was the winner.

In the Arctic it is necessary to share. Hunters would give food to widows, the elderly, or others who were unable to hunt. Only clothing, tools, charms, toys, and dogs were considered personal property


In winter, when the waterways were clogged with ice, and long distances were traveled dogsleds were used. “Komatik” is the word for dogsled. The sled usually carried supplies. Komatiks were made out of wood, whalebone, or whatever solid material was available. The runners might have been made out of rolled up sealskin or frozen fish. A family had about five or six dogs. These dogs would have been Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malmutes, or Eskimo dogs. The dogs might have been different sizes and weights but all were specially adapted to the Arctic. Their tails curved upwards so snow wouldn’t drag them down. Adult dogs slept outside in the snow because of their thick fur. There were two coats of fur on these dogs. The outer fur kept them warm while the inner fur protected them from water. Eskimo dogs had pointed ears and oval faces. These dogs didn’t bite, but howled like their ancestors, the wolves.

The driver of the sled usually ran behind or sometimes stood on the back. Woman and children often helped train the dogs. To start the dogs the driver would yell, “Mush!” A team of five dogs pulled a load of around two hundred and fifty pounds and ran from twenty to forty miles per day. Eskimo dogs ran faster when their stomachs weren’t full. They were fed every other day. Traveling over ice was easier than plowing through it, so Komatiks were used whenever possible.

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Lesson Plan 1: Reliving the Underground Railroad


1. Students will use various resources to obtain information on the history and significance of the Underground Railroad.
2. Students will engage in the activity and become aware of the dangers and tremendous risks that were involved.
3. Students will discuss and record a written response to questions pertaining to themselves and their experience on the Underground Railroad.


1. Game board and pieces
2. Paper and pencils
3. Books, videos, computers and other related material to the Underground Railroad and Harriet Tubman


1. Students should be group from two to four per game.
2. Students will use game and accompanying pieces to play the game beginning in the South and ending when they have reached freedom the country of Canada.
3. Students should record notes on significant events that take place as they travel along the Underground Railroad.
4. Students should use any notes and reflect on their experience to answer questions pertaining to the game. Students will use resources and other pertinent information to respond to a question sheet as accurately as possible.
5. The instructor will have students utilize all information thus far to write a prompt. The prompt should have the student envision him or herself as a slave on a plantation. This character should write about his or her attempt and successful or unsuccessful escape from slavery. Student should have an introduction, a minimum of three paragraphs, and a conclusion. All prompts should allow the reader to feel, hear, taste, and see what the character is experiencing. All prompts should be sequentially correct.
6. The instructor can have the students illustrate their stories in various ways. Dioramas, murals, paintings, cartoon strips, etc. can assist the student with his or her writing or enhance it. Final drafts of stories and illustrations can be displayed.
Note: The gameboard is available through Woman’s History Catalog. The phone number is (707)838-6000. The item number is #6911. The cost before tax is $6.95. The game will need to be duplicated and laminated for multiple group use. The game package will include a 20”x 26” black lined gameboard, short biography, discussion questions, song sheets, activity suggestions, bibliography, colored markers and one die. This game is suitable, as packaged, for grades two through six.

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Lesson Plan II: Making A Quilt


1. Students will research and record information on quilting and the significance and importance in the Amish culture.
2. Students will observe pictures of various quilts and begin sketching and coloring the patterns in a quilt.
3. Students will develop directional skills for the process involved in making a quilt.
4. Students will apply all information and skill to construct a quilt


1. Books, videos, computers, and other resources available to assist in the quiltmaking procedure.
2. Quilting pattern worksheet
3. Tracing paper, quilting pattern worksheet, pencils, and scissors
4. Scraps of material, batting, lengths(depending on size of square panel) of white of light colored material
5. Sewing needles and thread or Heat n’ Bond
6. Fabric paints (optional)


1. After students have gathered and researched information on quilts, different colored pictures can be shown to help students grasp a better understanding of the complex design and difficult work necessary to complete a quilt.
2. After students have examined pictures of the quilts they should begin drafting sketches of quilt designed by themselves. These pictures can be colored in and put into a portfolio for later use.
3. Students will each be designing and constructing their own panel The teacher should decide on the size and shape of the panels. Square panels will work best. Each student should receive a paper equal to the size of the panel. Students should draw a design, using large shapes on the paper. The teacher should emphasize that the entire panel need not be filled up. Once the design has been drawn, the students should color in the pieces that make up their panel picture.
4. Once that design has been completed, students should use the tracing paper to trace over the pieces that will be used with material. Students should carefully cut out pieces from tracing paper.
5. Tracing paper pieces should be placed and pinned onto material scraps. The student should then cut out the pieces from the material.
6. Once the pieces have been cut, students should receive a piece of cloth. Pieces should be placed on the cloth in a design Sketches can be used to help students remember the design and assist with placement.
7. After instructing students and allowing them to practice, students can begin sewing the first piece of the design onto the panel. A simple straight stitch can be used on pattern piece Have students allow about 5/8” from the edge of the pattern piece.
8. Once students are comfortable they can work independently until pattern is sewn on panel. Students can work together in a circle to imitate the Amish quilting or by themselves during a specified time or when work is accomplished.
9. Once panel is complete a square of batting and a back panel can be sewn together to finalize one panel. The teacher may also collect all the panels and using a sewing machine attach panels together. When panels have been attached in a square, batting can be sewn along edge of quilt and one large back panel can be added. The edges can be trimmed to create a finished look. To make finished edges, panels and back panel must be sewn right sides together with batting on outside of back panel. Then the quilt can be turned right side out and the small opening can be stitched closed by hand.
10. The teacher can have the students use fabric paints to sign their names or initials on the panels. Finished quilts can be displayed

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Lesson Plan III: Constructing An Igloo


1. Students will develop an understanding of the Inuit culture and some of the materials necessary for survival in the Artic region
2. Students will become aware of the similarities and differences between our culture and the Inuit culture.
3. Students will integrate reading, writing, math, and directional skills to construct a model igloo.
4. Students will use natural resources to construct an igloo strong enough to provide shelter and large enough to accommodate three to five people.

Materials: (per student)

1. One twelve inch square piece of cardboard
2. One ten inch circular disc of styrofoam
3. Glue, pencils, scissor, ruler
4. Materials to furnish inside of igloo are optional


1. Students will use a ruler to find the middle of the disc. Once the center is located a line should be drawn across the center of the disc.
2. Students should make a circle one inch in from outer edge. Students should then cut out the inside of the circle.
3. With pencil, circle should be divided into sixteen even blocks.
4. Students should cut the ring and glue all but one block to the cardboard base. The blocks should be glued in the same circular pattern as before cut. The opening in the circle (cardboard) will be the entrance, where the tunnel will be located. This completes the first layer.
5. The remaining disc should now be approximately eight inches across Students will use a ruler to draw a line through the center of the disc. If available, a compass can be used to make three semicircles one inch apart. The instructor can use heavy cardboard to make traceable semicircles.
6. Students should cut the disc in half and put the unused section to the side. Then students should divide the semicircles into even blocks. Rulers can be used. Any length of measurement per block should be fine.
7. With glue, students can add these blocks to the second outer layer, still leaving the door opening. The blocks should lean slightly inward. About fourteen blocks will be used.
8. Taking the unused semicircle, measure one inch from the flat side and cut a strip. This piece should be divided into four even blocks.
9. Take the remaining piece of styrofoam, now a solid semicircle and have students glue it to the inside base of the igloo. The straight edge should be opposite the doorway. This is now the “iglerk” or couch.
10. Use the remaining four blocks to construct a tunnel to the opening.
11. Students can use models to study. During winter, as a whole class project, an igloo can be constructed out of snow. Snow blocks are available at most large stores such as Caldor or k Mart. Math and Inuit research can assist the students when making a life sized model. Temperature readings, weather conditions, and available supplies can all be investigated.
14 Blocks
(figure available in print form)

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Annotated Bibliography

George, Jean Craighead. Julie of the Wolves. HarperTrophy, 1974. 170 p

This book allows the reader to experience first hand the trials and tribulations in the Arctic region when Miyax or Julie escapes her old life. We journey with Julie as she encounters nature and few other surprises. When a wolf pack becomes Julie’s new family, everything changes.

Good, Merle. Who Are The Amish? Good Books, 1985. 128p

A colorful look into the lives of the Amish people and their culture. j 289 Goo

McClard, Megan. Harriet Tubman: Slavery and the Underground Railroad. 133p

This book, filled with timelines, maps, lots of facts and plenty of photographs, gives kids a real understanding of Harriet Tubmans significance and the Civil War era.

McKissack, Patricia C. Dear America A picture Of Freedom The Diary of Clotee A Slave Girl. Belmont Plantation 1859 Scholastic 1997. 195p

In 1859 twelve year old Clotee, a house slave who must conceal the fact that she knows how to read and write, records in her diary her experiences and her struggle to decide whether to escape to freedom. PZ7 M478693F

Newman, Shirley P. The Inuits. Franklin Watts, 1993. 63p

This book provides a look at the history, culture, and daily life of the Inuit people who live in the Arctic regions of the world, focusing on those living in North America. j 970.00497 NEW

Parham, Vanessa Roberts. The African-American Child’s Heritage Cookbook. Sandcastle Publishing, 1993. 289p

A collection of recipes for children instructing them in the traditions of African-American cooking. Includes a brief history of African-American cooking. j 641.5 PAR

Purdy, Susan. A Civilization Project Book Eskimos. Franklin Watts, 1982. 32p

Instructions for duplicating such Eskimo artifacts as charms, kayaks, masks, games, soap carvings, and dolls. j 970.00497 PUR

Seitz, Ruth Hoover. Amish Country. Crown Publishers, 1987. 120p

Throughout this book Amish ways and the reasons behind them become real in striking images and descriptive vignettes. j 289.73 SEI

Sorenson, Virginia. Plain Girl. Harcourt, Brace, and Company, 1955. 151p

Despite her father’s objections a young Amish girl secretly looks forward to attending public school where she makes a best friend and gains a new perspective on her family’s way of life. PZ7. S72PI

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Contents of 1997 Volume III | Directory of Volumes | Index | Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute

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