Water Fountain Activity
This activity should be done over a day and up to a week. Put up a sign that reads “No Blue or Green Eyes” on all but a few water fountains in the school that are in an inconvenient location. Announce to the class that there is a new school rule: people with blue or green eyes are not allowed to use the water fountains marked with a sign “No Blue Eyes.” Decide on a punishment if they are caught breaking the rule. People with brown eyes are allowed to use any water fountain they like. Students may find ways to protest the new rule. If they do, help them find constructive ways to protest. For instance, they could write letters to the principal, write a petition and get people to sign it, make signs and hold a peaceful demonstration in front of the fountains, or even hold a “drink-in” where many of the students break the rule all at once. If students break the rules as a form of protest either individually or as a group, follow through with the punishment, but then reveal to the student the purpose of the activity so they do not feel they are actually in trouble.
After the exercise, talk to the students about segregation and the Civil Rights Movement. Reveal the purpose of the exercise and have students reflect on their experiences. Use the questions to help them make connections with the Civil Rights Movement. Have them address the following questions either in a class discussion, or individually in their writing journals:
How did the people with blue eyes feel about not being allowed to drink out of many of the water fountains?
How did the people with brown eyes feel about being able to drink out of any of the water fountains?
Do you think it was fair? Why or why not?
How do you think African Americans felt when they could only drink from certain water fountains, sit only in the back of buses, or could not eat at the restaurant?
Do you think it was fair that African Americans were treated this way?
Did you do anything to try to stop the water fountain rule? What are some other ways you could have protested the rule?
In what ways did people protest segregation during the Civil Rights Movement?