Cafe brings Progressive Era to life


BRHS Photo

Students in Ms. Dolan’s AP U.S. History class shared views from the Progressive Era at the Progressive Cafe’.

When I walked into the AP U.S. History classroom on Feb. 10, I heard French café music playing. A welcome sign invited us to the Progressive Café.  Valerie Dolan, our teacher, had set up the classroom like a French café with pretend candles on desks that were set up as tables for two. The background music set the mood as students met their “first dates.’’

Progressive leaders, played by students in AP US History, enjoyed getting to know each other at the Progressive Cafe. (BRHS Photo)

Only we weren’t students: We were legendary figures from the Progressive Era. Each student had a role to play. For example, I became Samuel Gompers whose goal was to improve working conditions and get higher wages for workers.  During class, we pretended  to “Speed Date.”  As we moved from table to table, we met different progressive leaders, such as Ida B. Wells, Upton Sinclair and W.E.B. DuBois. When we chatted with our “dates, we compared our goals on how best to change society.  For example, I talked with Christi-Alexis Cisse, a Progressive fighting for woman’s suffrage. We both wanted to improve society but I was focused on improving working conditions while she was focused on getting women the right to vote.

The class made Ms. Dolan proud.  “The APUSH students did a great job taking on the Progressive reformers in class today,’’ she said. “ Their commitment to stay in character helped keep the activity fun and academically engaging.”

When the bell rang, signaling the end of class,  we left feeling good about an enjoyable experience that brought important historical figures to life.