In 1915, the Justice Bell toured each county in Pennsylvania and later traveled across the country as a symbol of the women's suffrage movement. During the trips, the clapper was chained to the inside of the bell to represent the silence of women who were not legally allowed to vote in the United States.
In social studies class, Colonial Middle School (CMS) eighth graders learned about the Justice Bell and then had a month to create a project that related to injustice in a creative way.
"The hardest part was finding a topic to work with, because there are so many possibilities with so much injustice in the world," said Zane Al-Saleem, a CMS eighth grader. "It's important to study injustice, so In the future we know what's right and how to treat people equally."
Creating their projects
The students used the design process that included: Ask (What is justice? What needs to be improved in society?), Imagine (What are the solutions to the injustices you have identified?), Plan (Draw a concept. Create a timeline. Gather materials.), Create, and Reflect. The final projects included bookmarks, postcards, paintings, sculptures, websites, social media accounts and other work that highlighted injustices, historical figures who worked for justice, and solutions to make the world more just.
Zane Al-Saleem worked with fellow eighth grader Ben Moldovsky to make a model of a Justice Bell using a 3-D printer.
"There were some twists to it," said Ben. "It's like part of a bell, and that represents the justice. There are also parts that are missing that represents the injustice. We're making progress within the world, but there's not total justice."
Jaclyn Porter worked with Tori Pettine, a friend from another eighth grade class.
"We made a website about how women should be considered for the draft during another war, because we feel that, if we want equality, we have to get all of it, even the bad," said Jaclyn. "It's important to study injustice so we're aware of what's around us and so we can stand up for ourselves, so we can be equal."
Finding connections in different subject areas
The Justice Bell project ties into the eighth grade social studies curriculum through their study of the United States' first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls, New York, but the students also connected it to their study of slavery and the American Civil War, as well as the books they read in eighth grade English Language Arts, including The Diary of Anne Frank.
"They're not just looking at rights for women, but they're looking at minorities, the criminal justice system, the political system, the economic system," said CMS Social Studies Teacher Michael Clark. "And when you look at what they created, you might not understand it right away. But when you read their reflections, you see how deeply they thought about it and how these injustices affect them without us as adults even knowing."
The top three projects will receive awards from the Justice Bell Foundation at a ceremony on May 29 in the CMS auditorium.